Summer of the Gypsy Moths was in the box of books that Harper Collins Childrens recently sent me to review. It was written by Sara Pennypacker and is slated for release in May. Pennypacker is the author of the popular Clementine books. She also wrote some of the Flat Stanley books which Sean loves.
Gypsy Moths is about two twelve-year-old girls who are unrelated and opposite in every way except that they are both more or less orphaned. Through very odd circumstances and one very bad decision, they are forced to forge a friendship and rely on one another to survive for a summer.
The story is set in a small beach town on Cape Cod. Louise, a somewhat crusty elderly lady, runs the vacation cottages in the town and has taken in the two girls as foster children.
Stella, Louise’s great niece, never knew her father and has suffered a lifetime with her incredibly selfish and irresponsible mother who is in and out of her life and frequently abandons her. When she is left in a hotel room for several days, Stella calls the authorities and that is how she ends up in the care of her great aunt. Angel, the other girl, is a tough and independent girl who has lost both of her parents and has been in more foster homes than she can remember — and now she is in another one with an old lady and a girl she doesn’t like.
When the girls come home one afternoon, they find that Louise has died unexpectedly. They are afraid of being sent back into foster care, so they bury her in the backyard and then spend the rest of the summer making creative excuses for her absence, running the cottages and nearly starving as they try to survive on their own.
What did I think about this story? Hmmm, that is a good question. I can’t decide. I found the characters to be likeable. (I didn’t like that the young girls said crap repeatedly and Jesus querido which I think is a Spanish epithet.) I liked the themes of community, family and friendship. I liked the core of the story – two vastly different girls find common ground in the difficult cards life has dealt them and learning to overcome their differences and rely on one another to become a family of sorts.
What I didn’t like was that these two young girls buried Louise in the backyard. I think in order for that plotline to work, it would have to be absurd and funny and this wasn’t a story that aimed to be funny. And so it was just sort of gross and sad, and disrespectful.
I wish Louise had been called away for the summer and through some miscues, the person who was supposed to care for the girls never shows up, or maybe the girls figure out that Louise has Alzheimers and the girls somehow arrange for her care in the local nursing home so CPS doesn’t find out, or maybe Louise drowns in Cape Code — or something! But it was hard for me to move beyond the imagery of these two girls being so heartless they could unceremoniously bury a human being and go on with their summer while a corpse rots just beyond the backdoor.
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In other news, Harper Collins Childrens also sent me Big Nate What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Lincoln Piece. I will be honest with you, I didn’t read it, but Sean did and he loved it. He sat down and read it through in about 30 minutes and asked for another.