Note: I wrote this right before starting back to school this September 4th.
I am a public school teacher. Some days end with me feeling like I've been kicked in the gut, but I love my job so much. I have no say when I take it, but I have the best vacation package of almost anyone (no, we don't technically get paid during the summer, but this is not the place for such arguments). I have to start work again tomorrow. Life stinks.
That would have been a better beginning for my Moxie Maxwell review, but it also fits with Summerhouse Time, another creatively put together end-of-summer-book that has nothing at all to do with comic books.
Every year a rented pink cottage full of family, swapping stories, and riding waves mean Summerhouse Time for Sophie. Best of all is sharing a room with her favorite cousin and laughing and trading secrets like two happy peas in a cousin pod. Sophie can't wait! But when she asks the now-a-teenager Colleen if she's looking forward to their time together, Colleen just says "I guess so."
What? It's the best time of the year, the time they both love. In just a little bit, they will all be together in the cottage on the beach. Will this year be just as wonderful, just like always? (from randomhouse.com)
The story is sweet and genuine. The whole extended family goes off for a month to live in a single cottage; one aunt and uncle set is fighting a bit too much, another aunt loses her job, something is wrong with dad and the favorite cousin is being standoffish. Oh, and Sophie has a thing for a boy back home and anyone she confides in comes back with “But you're only eleven.” I like how all of the conflicts are dealt with and nicely resolved, but none are treated as trivial. The book is written with the POV of an eleven year old. All of these problems are bigger and more real to an eleven year old – especially the thing with the BOY. It was real without being too heavy. It is a perfect summertime cottage book.
At first glance I thought this was a book of summertime poetry and I almost didn't read any further than a quick flip. That would have been a mistake, because not only would I have missed a charming book full of real problems that kids can relate to, but I would have missed a book that could be used to inspire young and old writers to write. The format was at least as enjoyable to me as the story. Most chapters are only 30-100 words in length and there are lots of black and white sketches throughout. This is the kind of book that I could see being written during a summer vacation at the cottage. As talented as the writer, Eileen Spinelli is, the best compliment I can give is that the writing, illustrations (by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff), and format make the reader come away with a feeling of “I could do that” or “Why didn't I think of that?”
This is an inspiring little (aprox 7x5 inches) book that would be suitable for readers aged 9-12. I think it might be better enjoyed by girls, but it is not necessarily written and intended for girls. I liked it.
Ages 9-12, 224 pages, Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 22, 2007), ISBN-10: 375840613, ISBN-13: 978-0375840616