Friday, May 9, 2014

The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink


It is only May and I already have my Book of the Year! It is a vintage copy I was delighted to discover on the sale table at the library: The Pink Motel written by Carol Ryrie Brink and
published in 1959.

You may be familiar with Ms. Brink as the author of the 1936 Newbery Medal winner Caddie Woodlawn

The Pink Motel is one of those old-time, individual small cabin motels that used to dot the American landscape. This one is on the beach in Florida (before monster hotels and condominiums took over) and has been left by Uncle Hiram to his great-grand-niece and her family. Mr. and Mrs. Mellen, 10-year-old Kirby and 9-year-old Bitsy, live in Minnesota. They leave the cold and snow and fly to Florida over the children's winter school break with the thought of selling the motel. But the warm winds and soothing surf begin to work their magic on the children as well as their parents.

The kids have adventures. They make new friends their own age and meet the regular winter guests: an artist who seems to have a few witchy-like powers; a magician whose magic seems to have disappeared; the woodcarver who crafted the weather vanes atop each cabin; and, two shady characters that Kirby, who proudly wears his Junior G-Man badge, is sure are gangsters. They investigate a mystery. They put on a talent show. 

There are no vampires. No one has a deadly disease. There is no sex or violence. 

It is all great fun. Ms. Brink captures the sounds and tastes and sights of this cozy spot by the sea. The weather vanes on top of the cabins flap in the breeze, the palm tree leaves rattle in the wind, the waves whoosh against the shore, the sky is colored a bright Southern blue, and the taste of fresh coconut lingers in the mouth. There are also entrancing illustrations by Sheila Greenwald which add to the charm of the tale.

One of my favorite parts of the story concerns the messy desk in Uncle Hiram's office that Kirby gets to investigate. 




No one had made any attempt to tidy it. The roll-top desk was bulging with papers and shells and old books and fishing reels, and many other things. Nothing seemed to be valuable. A shelf ran around the wall, and on it were a great many coconut shells which were also stuffed with string and fishhooks and small pieces of paper. The bits of paper were of many colors, but most of them were pink. Kirby suspected that the coconut shells, like the filing cabinet in his father's office up north, kept Uncle Hiram's business secrets and personal treasures. The only difference was that Father's filing cabinet was so neat that it was quite uninteresting, whereas Uncle Hiram's coconut shells were full of mystery and promise.

Don't you wish you could go on a treasure hunt through Uncle Hiram's desk? I sure do. 

24 comments:

  1. Nice one Belle. sometimes its important to retrace our steps to simple uncomplicated childhood reading either with something new to you like this or a return to a beloved tale like my current reading of "Treasure Island"; who doesn't love a pirate?

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    1. Absolutely, Tullik. I was so enchanted with the writing and the situations in The Pink Hotel. And the language! Ms. Brink was not an author to shy away from educating her readers in the most delightful ways.

      As to Treasure Island, I have not read that one. Shame on me. I do love a pirate! Thanks for the reminder. YoHoHo!

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  2. Sounds like a delightful story. I'm still planning a childhood literature project, and I haven't read Caddie Woodlawn, so may have to add both of these to the list.

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    1. Kathy, I am so glad I found this book. The writing and the language are delightful and I had a wonderful time spent by the sea with Kirby and his family. I always loved those little cabin motels and wish there were more of them around.

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  3. I love these kind of children's books. Whenever I spot one at a library sale or used book store I can't resist picking them up. Too bad they're getting harder and harder to find. This one sounds like such a fun read! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I loved this book for so many reasons, Lark: the language, the experiences the children had, the messy desk, the characters. It was so much fun to read. I won't be parting with this one!

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  4. I love books like this--it sounds delightful! Lucky you to have found a favorite already! I have read a small handful (very small really) of potential favorites, but only one or two that really stands out. I checked and the library where I work actually has this one in the Juv section, so I might just have to go and check it out!

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    1. Hi, Danielle. Oh, I do hope you read this book. It is so delightful in so many ways. Although I loved Caddie Woodlawn, I think I like this one even better - a bit more modern. But not TOO modern, if you know what I mean. Let me know what you think.

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  5. I loved this book when I was a child. I had vaguely remembered the motel, but not the characters. Thank you for this review! I don't often reread children's books, but I should ccehck out Carol Ryrie Brink again.

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    1. And here I thought I discovered the book, Kat! I think you would like rereading it as an adult. It is so delightful on so many levels.

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  6. Oh, yes, indeed, I would love to go on a treasure huntthrough Uncle Hiram's desk, Belle - and I would love to go an adventure reading "The Pink Motel". What a terrific find! I have not read this one, though "Caddie Woodlawn: is a favorite children's book of mine. I have even been to the house/site in Mennominee, WI.

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    1. Hi, Penny. I know you are a fan of "Caddie Woodlawn" as am I. I don't know why I didn't discover this book sooner. I guess it never occurred to me that Ms. Brink wrote about anyone other than Caddie. My loss until now! She wrote something like 30 novels over a span of 40 years. Unfortunately, my library only carries CW so I will surely be on the lookout for one of her last books titled "Winter Cottage" which I bet I would like.

      I just looked up the CW house and see that the character of Caddie was based on Ms. Brink's grandmother. I did not know that!

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  7. I have read Caddie Woodlawn more than once but had never seen this one. I requested on library loan and it came quickly. It's really fun to read something like this in between the mysteries I usually read. Thanks for calling it to our attention!

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    1. This book was so refreshing in so many ways, Joyce. And as you say, a nice break from the mysteries we enjoy. I am on the lookout for more by Ms. Brink. She and her characters fascinate me!

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  8. Yeah! I read this book many, many moons ago -- probably soon after it was published. I hadn't thought of it in decades, but for some reason it came to mind this morning, as i was walking my dog. I haven't found a copy at a price I'm willing to pay, but it's been great fun looking, and delightful to read your review of it. I'll keep searching the used-book shops.

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    1. I hope you can find a copy soon. You will be jealous to know I paid one dollar for my hardcover edition from the library's sale table. I always look for the vintage books and this one practically leaped out at me. What a delicious book. Thanks for your comment and good luck in your search.

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  9. This sounds just charming. It makes me think of the Betsy Tacy and Tib stories and Elizabeth Enright's novels. Summer always makes me want to read and read children's books, even more than usual.

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    1. I am not familiar with Elizabeth Enright but I see that she will be someone I will get to know soon. I just put 'Thimble Summer' on reserve at the library. Her books look delightful. I have come to appreciate so much the children's books written in that era. Thanks for the introduction.

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  10. What a delight to find this post! Was looking for images from the inside of this book for a blog post I'm writing about World Read Aloud Day. I read and re-read this book countless times as a kid, and then as an adult to 4th graders in my library. I not only loved the quirkiness of the whole story, but I obviously needed to read about smart, capable children. It resonates with me to this day.

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    1. Hi, Valerie. I loved this book! Brink's "Caddie Woodlawn" is one of the few books I remember reading as a child. I wish I had stumbled on this one too, but maybe wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I did reading it as an adult. Glad you took the time to comment.

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  11. How wonderful it is to discover that my favourite book can still be discovered and enjoyed. I use to borrow this book from the library at least 20 times or more when I was in public school. Never forgot this book.

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    1. This was one of my best finds ever! I missed reading so many books in my childhood that I love discovering them as an adult. This is a favorite!

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  12. I have read this book. My friend had this book which she had ordered from one of those book club flyers that they hand out in school. I would say she has had it since the '70s. She loves that book and loaned it to me. It is charming.

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    1. Hi, Glitter. Yes, this is one of the best. This copy is a Weekly Reader Children's Book Club edition 1960. The original price: $2.75. It even has a bookmark attached to the dust jacket. All still intact! Just looking at the cover makes me happy. Thanks for your comment.

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