Summer of the Gypsy Moths

My latest read, Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker, is another nominee for the 2014-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that enthused about reading this book. I didn’t want to read one more book where kids take on too much responsibility because the adults in their lives have–in one way or another–abandoned them. (I kind of got my fill of that when I read Keeping Safe the Stars, another SCCBA nominee.) But, since I do promote all twenty SCCBA nominees, I plowed through, and, while Summer of the Gypsy Moths is not exactly my favorite book on the nominee list, I can say it was a good book, and I know many young readers will enjoy it.

While Stella’s flighty mother is drifting from one town to the next, Stella is sent to live with her Great Aunt Louise on Cape Cod. Even though Louise is kind of grumpy sometimes, Stella likes living with her. Louise keeps things nice, neat, and orderly, something Stella’s mom never did. Stella has high hopes that her mom will eventually settle in Cape Cod with her and Louise, and they’ll be a happy family.

One obstacle to that “happy family” scenario–along with Stella’s mom’s lack of reliability–may be Angel, a foster kid who’s also living with Louise. Angel and Stella are like oil and water, and they seem to work best when they stay far away from each other. Fate, however, seems to have other ideas.

When the girls discover that Louise has suddenly passed away, they must work together to decide what to do. Neither girl wants to go into group homes or anything like that, so they do the only thing they can think of. They keep Louise’s death a secret. They make up plausible excuses for Louise’s absence. They take care of the vacation cottages that Louise was responsible for. Stella takes comfort in cleaning, gardening, and keeping Louise’s prize blueberries alive. Both girls do what they must to survive as long as they can. It’s not easy, but Stella and Angel think they have no other choice. They must learn to rely on each other.

Both Stella and Angel have taken on more than any two kids should, but their predicament is bringing them closer together. They’re communicating, working together, and learning more about each other. They each have their own ways of coping with this horrible situation, and they’re doing the best they can.

But what happens when the secrecy finally becomes too much? When the truth is revealed, what will it mean for Stella, Angel, and their future? Will they find the sense of family and home they so desperately need? Will someone finally take care of them? Find out when you read Summer of the Gypsy Moths, a 14-15 South Carolina Book Award nominee by Sara Pennypacker!

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I think many of my students will draw parallels between Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Keeping Safe the Stars, and that’s a good thing. The two books have different settings and circumstances, but the struggles that the characters experience in each book are very similar. In both books, young children take on way too much in order to avoid being taken away from their homes. I look forward to conversations about the similarities and differences in how each character handles certain situations and what young readers may have done differently.

That being said…

*Spoilers ahead!*

One big issue I had with this book was the neatness of the ending–and how long the main characters got away with deceiving everyone around them. I mean, two girls hide a dead body, bury it in the backyard, and live on their own for nearly two months, and everything essentially works out fine for them! I know it’s fiction, and one can expect a fairly happy ending in a book written for upper elementary and middle grade readers, but this seemed very unrealistic to me. Like many other books I’ve read this summer, the responsible adult in me (don’t laugh) cringes at the entire premise of this book. I’m sure many of my students will be intrigued by the plot–and I know they are the target audience–but Summer of the Gypsy Moths just wasn’t for me.

If you’d like more information about this book and acclaimed author Sara Pennypacker, visit her website. And let me know if you have a different take on Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Maybe you’re seeing something that I missed!

Clarity

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have some kind of psychic ability.  I imagine myself as a female version of Professor Charles Xavier of X-Men fame.  (Also, I’m not much of a talker, so I think things would be a lot quieter if I could just communicate with people through telepathy.)  Anyhoo, the main character in my latest read, Clarity by Kim Harrington, showed me that having a psychic “gift” may not be all it’s cracked up to be…especially when there’s a killer involved…

Clarity has an ability that makes her something of an oddity in her town.  She gets visions of the past just by touching certain objects.  Normally, she simply uses her “talent” to entertain tourists, but something has just happened that will test just how useful her ability really is.  A girl has been found murdered in a local hotel, and the powers-that-be want Clare’s special brand of help to solve the crime.  (Well, some of the powers-that-be want Clare’s help.  The new detective and his super-hot son aren’t so convinced.)  Clare is eager for this chance to do some good with her gift, but her visions lead her in a direction she never expected.

Clare soon discovers that her brother, Perry, has a connection to the dead girl.  Even though she’s working with the police, Clare does all she can to cover for her brother, even though she has some doubts about how innocent he really is.  All of the evidence is pointing to him.  Even Clare’s visions seem to implicate Perry, but there just has to be something–or someone–Clare is overlooking. 

As Clare continues to dig for information, she becomes convinced that her brother is innocent.  The question is…who is guilty?  Could the murderer be right in front of Clare–someone she never would have expected?  And will that person silence Clare to keep things quiet?  Can Clare make things clear before the killer strikes again?  Read Clarity by Kim Harrington to find out.

Clarity was a quick, easy read that kept my interest from the first page.  Despite her unique gift, Clare was a character that readers, especially teen girls, will relate to.  (She has quite a few issues with the guys in her life.)  She’s flawed, and she tends to judge others too quickly, but she does what she can to protect those she loves.  I think all of us might relate to that.

I hope you take the time to read Clarity.  Even though it does have a fairly neat resolution, there is ample lead-in to a sequel…which is good, because the second book in this series, Perception, will be released sometime in 2012.  I look forward to the further adventures of Clare and company.  It should be interesting.

If you’d like more information on Clarity or author Kim Harrington, visit http://www.kimharringtonbooks.com/.  Have fun!