There is so much for a child to love in Gone-Away Lake, and most children will do just that. What child wouldn't delight in a summer in which they have their very own, real house to fix up for a club, and all sorts of messy and exciting explorations to pursue?
The engaging writing in this book is easy for readers new to chapter books. As a parent, I appreciate the wholesome fun the children have (not a computer or TV in sight), the nuggets of learning painlessly inserted into the story and the respect shown for elderly and even rather eccentric people.
I did not care for the incessant use of language I would not want my children repeating, or the references to witches and ghosts or the light handed way in which keeping secrets from adults was portrayed. I would want to discuss the fact that Portia and Julian visit deserted houses in the company of adults who knew well their structural shortcomings and that wandering into deserted houses in real life would not be wise.
In the end, my daughter, who read this and other titles by Elizabeth Enright, fondly recalls Gone-Away Lake as a favorite childhood book. She barely recalls the cautionary items I mentioned, and she never thought to repeat the language. She just recalls her delight at the children's adventures and the ways they inspired her to have creative fun, too. With some parental involvement, Gone-Away Lake is a recommended pleasure for many youngsters.