Saturday, May 05, 2012

Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker

Stella is spending the summer living with her Great Aunt Louise on the Cape.  She is going to help Louise tend to the summer cottages adjacent to her little house.  Louise isn't a big one on emotion, and Stella is surprised when after talking to Louise about her mother and blueberries, Louise wraps her in a hug.  This pleases Stella, because she loves the idea of ties between people.  Since her own mother isn't exactly dependable, Stella likes the even nature of Louise and her clean house and tidy garden.  She even is trying to find a way to get along with foster kid Angel, who Louise took in thinking could keep Stella company. The two girls couldn't be more different, and Stella can't imagine why Louise thought having two girls was a good idea.

The thing is, Louise is older and she's not well.  Angel and Stella make a gruesome discovery when they come home from school one day, and they have some heavy choices to make.  Can they make a go of the summer on their own?  Should Angel run?  What will happen if folks find out they are living without any adult supervision?  And what are they going to tell George - the local who is supposed to help Louise take care of the rentals?  Most importantly, what are they going to do with Louise?

The girls decide to make a go of it, and have to figure out a way to get along.  Their differences turn out to be a good thing as Stella could use some fire and Angel could use some forethought.  Readers see the girls deal with bills, finding food, lying about Louise's whereabouts, and dealing with their own guilt.  All of this is wrapped up in Sara Pennypacker's rich prose, describing the Cape, the cottages, the beach, as well as the interconnected nature of life.  "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." (p.1)

Readers will be left wondering what they would do if they were ever in Stella and Angel's  predicament.   Honestly at first, I was wondering who I would give this book to.  It's clearly not for the same audience as Clementine.  There are heady issues in Summer of the Gypsy Moths, and at times the bigger ideas are a little scary.  Ultimately, however, this is a story of friendship, survival and hope, and thoughtful tweens will be ready for the serious nature of Stella and Angel's situation.

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