When Prince Krishna is called away, he leaves behind some strict instructions for the Hall children about one of the openings in the mysterious summerhouse: Keep Out! As Eddy and Eleanor swing through each of the other openings, they refuse to break the rule, even as their temptation grows. But when Oliver and little Georgie disappear through the forbidden archway, Eleanor and Eddy know that they must either break their promise or risk never seeing their friends again.
About the Author
Jane Langton studied astronomy at Wellesley College and the University of Michigan and did graduate work in art history at the University of Michigan and Radcliffe College. Ms. Langton is the author of a dozen books for young people, including seven other fantasies about the Hall family of Concord, Massachusetts: The Diamond in the Window, The Swing in the Summerhouse, The Astonishing Stereoscope, the Newbery Honor Book The Fledgling, The Fragile Flag, The Time Bike, and The Mysterious Circus. Also well known for her mystery novels for adults, Ms. Langton lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Read an Excerpt
The cablegram was very short. It said, Come at once. Prince Krishna and Aunt Lily started to pack right away. If they could catch the first afternoon train to Boston, they might make the next transatlantic plane. There was a great deal to be done. But while Aunt Lily was making out a list of last-minute instructions for her brother Fred and the children, Prince Krishna found time to do something strange. He ran out to his brand-new summerhouse in the backyard with an armload of old boards, a hammer, and some nails. Quickly he hammered the boards across one of the six openings of the summerhouse, closing it up entirely from top to bottom. Then he used a brush and a can of black paint to print the words
in large letters across the boards on the inside.
Eleanor and Edward came out to watch him. “Why are you doing that, Prince Krishna?” said Edward. “What does that mean, ‘keep out'?”
“Just what it says,” said Prince Krishna. “You children are welcome to use the summerhouse anytime you want, and you can come and go through any of the other openings'but not this one. I don't want you to use this doorway, you hear me? I haven't quite finished it yet. If only I had more time! But it looks very much like war back home. . . .”
“May I see the cablegram, Prince Krishna?” said Eleanor.
Prince Krishna took it out of his pocket and showed it to her. It was signed by the governor of the little country in the foothills of the Himalayas where Prince Krishna had grown up. Here in Concord, Massachusetts, Prince Krishna was Aunt Lily's husband and a professor in Uncle Freddy'sschool, but back in his own country he had been born a prince. Eleanor and Eddy were very proud to be the niece- and nephew-in-law of a real prince. Respectfully they watched him clean his brush and put the top back on the can of black paint. He turned to them again and looked at them keenly with his fine eyes. “Do you promise me that you'll keep out of this doorway to the summerhouse?” he said. (When he looked at you like that, he seemed so honest and simple and grand that you would do anything for him, anything.)
Eleanor couldn't see how the boards across the sixth side of the summerhouse could keep them out of anything, because the other five sides were still open, but if that was what Prince Krishna wanted --
“Would you like us to sign in blood?” said Edward. He had made a pledge like that once, and he had carried it out, too.
“No, your word is good enough for me,” said Prince Krishna. They promised.
“Children!” It was Aunt Lily, calling to them from the front porch. “Come quickly, I want to show you my list of instructions. Krishna, dear, the train leaves in an hour!”
Prince Krishna picked up his paint bucket, and then he stood for a moment, watching the children run barefoot across the grass, their legs brushing against the puffy heads of old dandelions, sending the airy seedlings flying. He looked around at his summerhouse, reluctant to go away. With the help of Mr. LaRue, the handyman, Prince Krishna had built the summerhouse himself. He had worked on it all summer long. Shavings from the plane and sawdust from the saw and discarded nails bent by the hammer still lay under the bushes all around it. Fresh yellow and white paint glistened on the latticed dome and on the six lathe-turned pillars that supported it. Prince Krishna had wanted the secret of the summer-house to be a surprise for Eleanor and Edward, and he had prepared for them a series of adventurous journeys, one through each of the arched openings around it. But one of the adventures was a dangerous one, and he didn't want his niece and nephew to embark on it without him.
Prince Krishna looked back at his handiwork regretfully as he followed the children into the house. The summerhouse looked strong enough to last for years -- it was a pity that it was to be a plaything for only a little while. He himself had seen to that, using an ingenious combination of Yankee mechanics with lore inherited from his remote ancestors in India. As soon as the children set out on the first of their summerhouse journeys a kind of clock would begin to tick, and after a suitable interval (more than enough for all their adventures) the summerhouse would simply disappear. One moment it would be there, and the next it would be gone. After all, one couldn't keep making enchanted journeys forever. . . .
If only he had a little more time! What if, after all, Eleanor and Edward should pull down those boards and break through the keep out sign? But they had promised him they wouldn't; and anyway, Prince Krishna reminded himself, the key to the adventures was missing. The key was a swing. And although he had already fastened a screw eye under the center of the summer-house dome, he hadn't yet threaded a rope through the screw eye to make a swing. And without the swing they couldn't go anywhere. So they were really perfectly safe. Surely he could go away without worrying. . . .The Swing in the Summerhouse. Copyright © by Jane Langton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book when I was in grade school. I am so delighted it is back in print. This was one of those eye-opening books for me, when I really began to discover the depth of imagination and fantasy. I could not put this book down as a kid. I can't wait to read it again, as well as the other books in the series. Jumping off a swing into wonderfully enchanted worlds? What kid could resist?