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Friday, March 14, 2014

Sara Pennypacker's novel about Gypsy Moths and Hiding a Dead Body

Pennypacker, Sara (2012)  Summer of the Gypsy Moths.  New York: HarperCollins.

     Stella is excited about spending the summer with her Great Aunt Louise who lives on Cape Cod and takes care of summer cabins -- even if that means sharing her aunt with a foster child named Angel.  Stella loves the beach and the summer breeze and the garden and the fact that her Aunt is a stable, loving (if gruff) alternative to Stella's flakey and undependable mother.  However, when the two girls find that Aunt Louise has died during the night, they have to decide whether to report the death or bury the body themselves in hopes that their idyllic summer life can continue. Soon they find themselves doing housekeeping duties for the cottages, babysitting tourist's kids, and trying to pay bills feed, themselves, and keep the secret of where Aunt Louise is.
     Sara Pennypaccker is the author of the Clementine series, deeply loved by both my daughters.  Like the Clementine books, and parts of this book are joyful and funny and the moving ending actually got me to sniffle a little bit (in a manly way, of course),  
     Here is the thing though.   I don't believe that we read novels to escape our problems -- I think we read them to exchange our problems for a different set of problems.  I love that feeling of sinking deep into a book and forgetting about my committee assignments and curriculum changes and becoming instead worried about whether the main character will be able to triumph over whatever adversity they are struggling with.  But it turns out that there are some sets of problems that characters struggle with that I greatly enjoy -- and others that make me cringe.
     This book, for me, is a cringer.
     After Stella and Angel decide to bury the body in the garden under cover of night, they begin to have to lie to cover up what is happening.  As I read on, I began to have this overwhelming dread that they were going to get caught.  At one point it looked like they were going to confide the whole story to George (a trustworthy adult character0 and I was excited that finally the tension would be relieved.  Something came up, though, and they were unable to tell him.  So the tension continued until the end -- and when the truth came out, the relief was wonderful.  Not sure I would want to read it again, though.  Still, maybe you like this sort of tension.  Then grab the book and get to reading.
     This one would be best for fifth grade and up, I think.

Oh, and while I am thinking about it, just a reminder.  If you find out about these blog posts through facebook and would rather get an email notification when a new one comes out, you can sign up to be a flower by clicking on the follower thingy.  I think.

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