Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

If you like a character-driven story then you can savor this emotional waltz through the eyes of Stella. If you are more of a shake 'n shimmy type person, then you might want a little more action. Personally? I'm a shimmy up the tree type person but I found the plot intriguing enough to suck me in from start to finish.

Eleven-year-old Stella likes rules and cleanliness. They give order to a not so orderly life. Her mother can't take care of her. Shoot. Her mother can't even take care of herself. Stella's grandma raised her and when she dies, Stella is stuck with mommy-on-the-run. Her mother flits from job-to-job, travels all over, and accepts no responsibility for her only child. Dad isn't even in the picture. When Stella's mom abandons her a few too many times, she has to go live with her aunt Louise. When Stella arrives she finds Angel, a foster child Louise thinks would be nice company for Stella over the summer. Problem? Stella's like orange juice and Angel is the pulp that settles on the bottom.

When Louise croaks one morning the two form an unlikely and tepid friendship as they pretend to the world that she is alive. No way are they going to go to foster homes. And don't worry. This isn't a spoiler considering the author tells you by the third paragraph that Louise dies. Actually, I found it hard to get past that foreshadowing. I thought, ugh... this is going to be a sappy, sad book. I'm gonna love this character and then, POW, she's killed off. But Pennypacker has the plot go kerflooey and pulls a Jack Gantos (The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs) - they don't stuff Aunt Louise but they have her propped by the window and bury her in a grotesque and endearing way that is mesmerizing. It isn't until the girls help with the cottages that I started to shake 'n shimmy a little. But I was hooked by then and exercised a rare moment of patience.

The writing is gorgeous in this book with beautiful images and strong character development.  Pennypacker use images of webs, destructive gypsy moths, gravity, broken objects, music, and more, connecting them to the characters in the story giving depth and traits that make them identifiable to the reader. As a result even a shake 'n shimmy gal like myself had no problem waltzing through this book.

Reading Level 5.8
4 out of 5 Smileys

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