By Larry Enright
Do you remember "Our Gang"? Or maybe you are a fan of "A Christmas Story" and, like my sister, watch it over and over every year? Yes, I'm one of those individuals who believe that the past was a happier, more friendly time. We weren't afraid to go off on our own to explore the surrounding neighborhood or the woods nearby. Even better, our parents thought nothing of allowing us to go!
Larry Enright has done an amazing job in capturing all those early moments for us to remember as he introduces the Caswell Gang to us. Interestingly, he presents the story from the youngest member of the Gang:
"...That leaves you with me to piece this together. You have to keep in mind that I was only in first grade at the time, so my reading skills were limited. Simple chapter books were easy, but not six grade Tom-ese...How did we get our hands on Tom's secret journal?..."Of course most of the group are siblings, with the oldest boy the leader; but it is apparent that, just as we remember it, our friends were just like family members and we cherished that bond. If you are a Baby Boomer, you will find yourself remembering. Another plus for me was that the setting is nearby Pittsburgh, where memories of the steel mills as we traveled still are clear in my mind.
If you are younger and have at least once heard, "Oh, the good ole days..." and never quite believed it...then I highly recommend you consider this story. It pulls you in and I read it in a day, while spending a little time remembering as well!
Enright certainly has a wonderful memory...or maybe we all would if we stopped to remember more about our early life. Curiously, you wonder how much is fiction or how much is from his own story. Perhaps that is not important, because it is so well written that you think he might have been keeping a journal, as is included in the story...and just pulled that journal out one day and molded it into a novel...Realistic and memorably full of yesterdays...I thoroughly enjoyed the day he provided.
And, in addition, a mystery is even included! And just as the characters did, I pictured being Nancy Drew or working with the Hardy Boys to solve the mystery surrounding "The Pink Lady" whose car the Gang found in the woods, together with the clothes and even the wallet of the owner. What had happened to her? The Caswell Gang is on the trail--but then the car is gone! But that doesn't stop them. In fact, it gets them further into action, meeting and making friends with a veteran neighbor and stopping to help him with the chores that he could no longer handle himself...
But they persist until the crime has been totally solved!
This is a wonderful book for children--but I have to say that many adults will be the ones that truly will be thankful for the time spent enjoying their youth once again...I loved it!