Next week I'll be sharing Carin Siegfried's last post in her "Insights into Editing" series. Meanwhile, here is a review on a new book for girls.
On the surface, Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker (Balzar & Bray, 2012), is the story of two girls who form an unlikely alliance and friendship. But dig deeper, and you’ll find ties like, “strands of spider silk: practically invisible, maybe, but strong as steel” (p.1) which are woven throughout this middle grade novel.
Stella and Angel barely talk to one another in the small house they share with Stella’s great-aunt Louise, a caretaker for a small group of rental cottages on Cape Cod. When Louise dies suddenly the girls are forced to work together in order to survive.
The girls meet the job at hand—keeping the cottages open for the summer season—and develop trust and affection for one another. This is shown dramatically when Stella gives Angel, who deeply fears the ocean, her first swimming lesson.
“Angel,” I said. “Take a deep breath and fell your lungs, then fall back. I’ll catch you. Fall back.”
“I can’t,” Angel said.
“You can. I’ll catch you.”
Angel fell back and I caught her shoulders. “Now arms out and relax. You’re floating.”
Both Stella and Angel wrestle with feeling abandoned by their families and part of the book’s triumph is how they each discover a place to belong. Since I am writing a book with the theme of an unlikely friendship between two girls, I noticed how Pennypacker expertly showed each girl using the friendship to meet their own goals.
If you read this book with your daughter or students, consider the role that the gypsy moths play (their name means “destroyer”), as well as the seagulls, blueberry bushes, and the simple acts of gardening, and cleaning.
Pennypacker brings a lot to this book; I hope you and a young reader savor it together.