- Virginia Johnson
Beginning-to-be-eleven-year-old Portia and her little brother Foster are excited to be visiting their relatives in the countryside for the summer in Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake. Besides seeing their favorite aunt and uncle, there is Katy the boxer dog who has just had a litter of puppies “with flat faces like pansies, and ears that felt like pieces of silk, and claws like the tips of knitting needles”—but best of all for Portia is having time to hang out with her cousin Julian, he of the hundred-thousand freckles. Closer than a friend and nicer than a brother is how she thinks of him. Julian is interesting and interested in everything that goes on around him.
Julian knows all about nature—birds and butterflies and meteorites; mosses, rocks, and crustaceans. Every year, there’s something different to explore together, and this summer is the best one ever. Packing a picnic lunch of sandwiches, cupcakes with orange frosting, and a thermos of ginger ale, they set out to explore the woods while Foster plays intergalactic yard games with his new pal, Davey.
Beyond the backyard garden and deep into the woods, Portia and Julian have found a magnificent boulder, coated with moss and tufted with ferns. It’s a perfect place for a picnic, and even more perfect when they discover semi-precious stones the color of grape jelly. While scraping off the moss to dig out the garnets, they find a curious carving: LAPIS PHILOSOPHORUM … TARQUIN ET PINDAR ... 15 JULY 1891
“I wish I knew who’d carved the words, though. I’d give anything to know!”
By the end of this day, Portia and Julian will know. And, by the end of the summer, they will know much more as they explore the secrets of Gone-Away Lake.
This gentle adventure story earned the Newbery Honor in 1958. In its way, it is a double-layered journey back in time. Portia and Julian explore the lost world of the 1890s Gilded Age with their new friends, but, in seeing it through the cousins’ eyes, we modern-day readers are transported back into what was the beginning of the Space Age. Recommended for thoughtful readers of any age.