The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin
Re-Read in 2013
I can not begin to explain my love for this book. I read it over and over again in elementary school. It's been floating around in my mind ever since then. I've practically been haunted by "...Noel... glub...c...blub...all I...glub...knew." Seriously. In fact, this is the book cover from my childhood. My copy got sold at one of my father's infamous garage sales. We moved around a lot and sometimes I had books and toys that I wanted to move with us and keep, but didn't really need to have in my bedroom anymore. My mother stored them away in boxes. This was in a very large box of books, that although I was beyond them as far as reading levels went, I could never truly outgrow. But, eventually my dad would have another of his garage sales and somebody would pull up and offer to take everything left over off of his hands (usually so they could go sell it all at a flea market) and he'd just start loading their car up with stuff he shouldn't have.
I was home for a weekend my freshman year of college and had taken out a bunch of textbooks to study and forgot something upstairs. I left them on the steps and ran up to my room. Probably the phone rang and when I went back downstairs to do some work, my books were gone. I found them on a folding table in the middle of our driveway. I was pretty sure that after my father sold them for a dime or a quarter a piece, he'd be pretty mad when he had to spend a few hundred dollars to replace them. I got them back. But, in my mind that was the same weekend he gave some lady who had her sights set on a table at the flea market the next day two huge boxes from our garage. One had my treasured childhood books and the other had the beautiful and extremely valuable dolls my great aunt Ethel had collected from all over the world and given to me over the years.
But, I've digressed with a vengeance here. This is the story of Little Dumpling. As a very young girl in a much earlier rough financial time than we are experiencing today, Little Dumpling and her friend Leon's parents created a tomato/potato soup that tasted good, filled bellies and was extremely inexpensive. The naming of the soup caused real problems as both families argued over who would get better billing on the can. In the end they decided to name the soup Mrs. Carillon's Pomato Soup. For the sake of fairness, this meant there had to be a Mrs. Carillon in both households, so Little Dumpliing was married to Leon Carillon, even though they were both just little kids. Then his parents sent Leon away to school, because the weird thing would be for the two newlyweds to live as such. The new Mrs. Carillon missed her friend. He sent very short messages, and sporatically at that. In fact, she kept the 30 or so missives and memorized them as a way to stay near Leon.
This is a story of mistaken identity and life being lived to the fullest without being able to enjoy it. Mrs. Carillon is determined to find Leon (he's decided he prefers Noel) and has only the message delivered to her, by a man in a sinking boat, just before she hits her head and loses consciousness. The message is the mystifying, "Noel... glub c blub... all I... glub... knew." She uses the tiny bits of information she's gleaned over the years trying to figure it out what it meant and completely suspended her own personal growth. However, she manages to learn Chinese, adopt the twins Tony and Tina and get reacquainted with her dear childhood friend, Augie Kunkel, creating an interesting and full life for herself. Yet she's somehow oblivious to it. It takes the kids and Augie to help her piece together the mystery and take back her life.
I can't tell you what it was about this book that appealed to me so very much as a child. But, I can tell you, as an adult, that there are real lessons in this book. Sure they are hidden behind outdated hairdos and way way too many purple flowered dresses, but they are there and if you've got the time, you should go and learn them from Mrs. Carillon. Although, I don't know why I felt this way as a child, I can tell you that I still think this book is an absolute treasure. I won't part with it again!
Now, if I can only find a copy of The Active Enzyme, Lemon Freshened Junior High School Witch, I will be pretty happy.