The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton

Every summer for years I would resolve to read my way through all the books in the children's room at the library. Mostly I started, sheep-like, at A. Sometimes, in a fit of wild rebellion, I would start at Z. The result is that my acquaintance with authors whose names begin with L, M, and N is slight (apart from the obvious ones), and I missed out on a lot of books I would really have enjoyed.

For instance, last week I read for the first time The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton (HarperCollins 1962, 256 pp), after an on-line acquaintance described it as one of her absolutely most favorite childhood books. I don't know if I would have loved it quite that much, but it would have been right up my alley.

Eddy and Eleanor Hall are orphans, living with their aunt and uncle in an old Victorian house in Concord, Massachusetts. Money is tight, and the bank is threatening to take the house from them. But one day, exploring the far reaches of the upper attic, the children find a wondrous attic room full of the relics of two other children, another brother and sister who vanished mysteriously years ago. There Eleanor and Eddy find a series of riddles scratched onto the window glass, that lead them on a mysterious hunt for both treasure and the lost children...

The episodes where the children journey into strange nightmares in search of the treasure were magical and gripping. What makes this book one I really enjoyed, however, was the juxtaposition of the fantasy sequences with the real-life efforts (all futile and fraught) of the children to solve the riddle. The result is a book that is a bit like Elizabeth Enright's Spiderweb for Two with magic thrown in....

This is the first of several books about the Hall family, which makes me happy now, looking forward to reading them, but would have made me even happier then, when it was beginning to seem that I had read everything the library held of interest. Of course, they may not have been in my library. Are there any other loyal patrons of the Arlington Virginia Central Branch from the 1970s and 1980s out there who remember these???

Well. Now I am very surprised. Because the most recent book of the Hall Family Chronicles, the eight instalment, could not have been in my childhood library, because it was published last summer-The Dragon Tree. I am glad that I never got around to reading it when I brought it home from the library last fall...now I will read it in its proper place.

I have also just learned that I actually had read one of the Hall Family books already--book number 4, The Fledgling(1980), which was a Newbery Honor book. Maybe it will make more sense once I've read books 2 and 3. Or maybe it is simply as strange as I vaguely remember it being...


  1. I loved this series as a child, which fit right in with Eager and Enright. The Halls were more eccentric and intellectual than many families in children's lit, and they made me feel right at home.

  2. I loved this series, too, Charlotte! I grew up near Concord, so the books were especially interesting. I loved that hidden room in Diamond in the Window.

  3. The Diamond in the Window was my favorite book as a kid, and I still have that old copy. I lived with Eleanor and Eddie and their crazy family! I've been pleased to find the same sort of themes and whimsical humor in Langton's adult mysteries, and I've enjoyed the rest of her kids' books as I've discovered them as an adult.


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