I am hoping someone can help me identify a book I have been trying to relocate for decades. There's a catch though: the three details I can remember about it may actually be conflated in my memory from two or even three different books.

For a long time, I had it in my mind that this was one of Madeleine L'Engle's books, but I have read or skimmed most of them and can't find any of these details in her work. I read A Wrinkle in Time in 1970 (I was about seven then), and I read this book afterward, though I think I never finished it for some reason. It could be that a librarian recommended it to me on the basis that I had liked A Wrinkle in Time (very much) and that I might like this book, too.

Whatever this book was, I read it between 1970-1974. Probably before 1972. So it can't be anything written later than 1974, which narrows it down a little.

All the details in my memory involve a group of young people (4-5 of them?), pre-teens or teens, who are about to embark on some fantastic quest or journey (knowingly or unknowingly). As I said above, these details may actually have come from 2-3 different books, but here they are:

  1. Early in the book the characters ride an oldfashioned merry-go-round, and the narrator tries (successfully, I think) to catch the gold ring

  2. One of the characters can set a mental alarm by thumping his/her head against the pillow X number of times before going to sleep and then waking up at that hour the next morning (i.e. seven thumps = 7:00 a.m. wakeup).

  3. In the morning the group gathers in a large room with many large windows, each of which is a portal to somewhere.

As I remember these details, they occur in this order, and I think that's as far as I got in this book(s).

My deepest thanks to anyone who can place any of these memories in a specific book or books!

  • 2
    The detail about waking up by banging your head on the pillow appears in chapter 4 of Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. forgottenfutures.com/game/ff8/5child.htm Neither of the others are in this book though.
    – ssav
    Jan 12, 2018 at 12:18
  • 2
    THANK YOU!!! I shared the link to this post on my Facebook page yesterday, and a friend there almost immediately identified the room with the portal-windows as The Swing in the Summerhouse (1967) by Jane Langton, which rang a definite bell for me. This book is the sequel to The Diamond in the Window (1962), and some of my memories may relate to it as well. Thanks to you and my friend we have identified the books which contain the two most important details in my memory. I wouldn't mind knowing where I read the merry-go-round scene, but I am satisfied with these answers. Jan 12, 2018 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


This is a long shot, but scene with a merry-go-round appears in Merry Go Round in Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren McGraw Wagner. This was published in 1963 so it fits your timeframe. However it is just the protagonist, Robin, riding the merry-go-round not a group of children and it is a brass ring not a gold ring.

The little man had certainly vanished-probably, thought Robin, he was on the other side of the merry-go-round selling tickets to someone else. For the first time, he examined his own ticket, and found that it 'was a curious one, as he had thought. It was as large as a postcard, and scarlet, like the mare. Across one side of it in shining gilt letters was printed: GRAB THE BRASS RING FOR A FREE RIDE
After the fourth or fifth failure, Robin began to grow stubborn, as he always did when he failed at something. Then he grew ingenious, as he always did when he became stubborn. While his little red mare was leaping and bounding around the rest of the circle, he prepared hastily for the moment at which he would pass that tantalizing metal arm again. With some difficulty, since the merry-go-round was now whirling at top speed and his mare was very spirited, he stood up in his stirrups, wound his left arm tightly around the mare's pole to brace himself, and leaned perilously far out, with his right arm stretched full length.

Now! Here came the arm again-why, there was the little man, standing right under it, stamping one foot and shouting as he stamped. Reach, Sonny! Reach! Reach! Reach! Reach!"

"I'm t-trying-" Robin panted, reaching with all his might . . .Click! "I got it, I got it!" Robin shouted, holding the ring high. He had one swift glimpse of the little man throwing his hat triumphantly in the air, then-CRACK!!!!

The CRACK!!!! is of course the ring transporting him to Oz.

For completeness I'll record the other two books identified in the comments:

The detail about waking up by banging your head on the pillow appears in chapter 4 of Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. Identified by ssav.

The room with the portal-windows is in The Swing in the Summerhouse by Jane Langton. This book is the sequel to The Diamond in the Window. Identified by OP.

  • I don't remember the bit at the end about being transported, but it's possible. I think I would remember the Oz aspect though. Much appreciated! Jan 13, 2018 at 22:26
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    @ScottNicolay: if you aren't sure this is the answer you probably shouldn't accept it. If the answer is accepted that might deter other people from suggesting answers. You can unaccept it just by clicking the green tick again. Jan 14, 2018 at 9:11

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