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The Four-Story Mistake - Part 1

This is a mini-unit for chapter one of Elizabeth Enright's delightful story for children, "The Four-Story Mistake". Read the instructions for using this unit, if you haven't done so already.

Chapter One: "The Last Time and the First"

Vocabulary Words:


Word Pictures - Metaphors & Similes:

"How quiet the place would be under its new pelt of thick carpet".

"Its jaws were wide open, disclosing an undigested meal of socks, underwear, field glasses, baseball mitts, sweaters, model airplanes, and books."

"...where the rest of the luggage was waiting in a patient herd."

"half a dozen chairs, clustered together like people after church"

The moving men were "like mammoth snails" who "brawled at each other like giants shouting from mountaintops".

"The road stretched ahead of them blue-grey and shining, like the back of a whale."

It was "raining pitchforks".

"They were like naturalists, carrying back rare orchids from the jungle."

"Things taste different in the dark; they taste 'more'."

Correcting Poor Grammar:

Willy: "Guess a wire's blew down somewheres."

Cuffy: "I'm glad the new house don't have all them stairs."

Nature Study:

chrysanthemums - also called "mums"

Here is a chrysanthemum to color and place in your notebook, if you have started one.  If you would like, try to draw a chrysanthemum free-hand.  Here is an example of one person's drawing of a chrysanthemum.  Read about the history of the chrysanthemum at The National Chrysanthemum Society website.  They have a kids' page, too.

Science, Math or History Extras:


In regard to Rush's suitcase, Mona said, "You can't expect something to absorb 7 times its capacity".  What did she mean by this?

By using the word "absorb", Mona is referring to something like a sponge's ability to hold a certain capacity of liquid (or volume) or a container's ability to hold only its own volume of a substance.  Here is an online game about estimating capacity.  Here is an easy experiment you can do to find out how much air your lungs can hold -- lung capacity. (This blog link has the same experiment with photos and instructions, if you want to see a "real life" version.)

Questions to Think About:

As you listen to the story and get to know the Melendy family, do any of the children or other characters remind you of people you know?  How about characters in other stories you have read?

Have you ever had to move to a new house in a new place and say goodbye to old friends?  Was this a sad time or a happy time... or a little of both?  How did your experience compare with the Melendy children -- was there a certain character you were more like?

Rush has imaginary adventures involving World War II, evading the enemy, etc.  The story was written in 1942, for young readers who could relate to the current political situation in the world at that time.  Elizabeth Enright wrote about everyday life of children during a time when she, herself, didn't know the outcome of the war, since it wasn't over until after the book had been published.  Can you think of other famous books that were written about the same time that have characters, especially children, feeling the effects of the war?  Try to name as many as you can think of and compare them.

Links to More Info and/or Pictures/Definitions:

Picture of house with cupola on top

Here is a model of a house that is very similar to the Four-Story Mistake - it even has the Mansard roof!

This one isn't as pretty as I would have imagined, but it does have the Mansard roof AND the cupola... and three stories.

If you could add a cupola to this one, it would be very close!

Oh, look!  This Opera House is all four stories... and NOT a mistake!

This one is really neat, but the cupola isn't centered on top of the roof!

Here is a picture by Jessie Wilcox Smith depicting a girl in a window seat reading, as imagined in our story.  This was one of many works of art used for a bookplate, to be pasted inside the front cover of a book in one's home library collection.

Click here to go on to chapter 2.


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