Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker was my 10th book read for the 2012 48 Hour Book Challenge, and my favorite. I just finished reading it, and am still teary-eyed over the rightness of the ending. I adore Sara Pennypacker's Clementine series, written for younger elementary school kids. Summer of the Gypsy Moths is more grown up, more serious and complex, but equally wonderful.
After social services takes her away from her flighty mother, Stella is sent to live on Cape Cod with her Great-Aunt Louise. Louise also takes in Angel, a prickly orphan, as a foster child. But just as the summer begins (and just as the book begins), Louise dies suddenly, at home, of a heart attack. And Stella and Angel, each believing that by the end of the summer they'll have a family member who can take of them, decide to hide Louise's death. They bury her in the garden, and take on her responsibilities running the adjacent set of summer cottages. Only gradually do the two girls actually become friends.
I flagged about 20 passages in this book, and could have flagged more. As a reader, you know that you're in good hands when you read the very first paragraph:
"The earth spins at a thousand miles and hour. Sometimes when I remember this, it's all I can do to stay upright -- the urge to flatten myself to the ground and clutch hold is that strong. Because, gravity? Oh, gravity is no match for a force that equals ten simultaneous hurricanes. No, if we aren't all flung off the earth like so many water droplets off a cartoon dog's back, it must be because people are connected somehow. I like to imagine the ties between us as strands of spider silk: practically invisible maybe, but strong as steel. I figure the trick is to spin out enough of them to weave ourselves into a net." (Page 1)
Honestly, do you need to hear anything more about this book? A main character with a strong, unique voice? Check. Insightful prose? Check. (See also page 15: "Disgust waves practically spoked off her.") A compelling premise? Check.
But we also have strong development of secondary characters, and growth of all the characters throughout the book. (See page 31: "His hair was a little shaggy, as if he was the kind of person who liked it short, and he kept meaning to go to the barber, but it just hadn't happened for a while.") We have a distinctive setting that the reader can easily visualize (and smell and taste). We have solid plotting that doesn't rely on coincidences or tricks. And an ending that will make the reader cry, in the best possible way.
I could say a lot more. But really? Just go out and get Summer of the Gypsy Moths. I don't see how anyone could be disappointed. Recommended in particular for fans of The Penderwicks series, and books by Cynthia Lord and Jennifer Holm. That is to say, recommended for anyone who enjoys realistic middle grade fiction that is well-written, entertaining, and meaningful. Summer of the Gypsy Moths has my highest recommendation.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it (in hardcover, because I knew I would want to keep it)
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).