Friday, May 28, 2010

The Year the Swallows Came Early

by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Sadly, this lovely little book was left languishing on my bookshelf all year.  I finally pulled it off, finished it and now can return it back to my school library shelf.  Next year I'll be able to talk many students into reading this book. 

Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson is a precocious, eleven-year-old girl living near a California beach.  She loves to cook, keeps a journal of her cooking ideas and recipes and her best friend is a boy, Frankie.  The description from the very first page is striking: 
"We lived in a perfect stucco house, just off the sparkly Pacific, with a lime tree in the backyard and pink and yellow roses gone wild around a picket fence."
     There is chaos among this "perfect" setting, of course, and  Groovy's dad is soon picked up by the local police officer as they are walking out of a shop.  The rest of the story unfolds as Groovy comes to accept the reasons behind her father's arrest, her anger and eventually her understanding and forgiveness.  Weaved throughout are Groovy's dreams to go to cooking school and her great-grandmother, Eleanor's gift, which has something to do with everything. 

     There are many things to love about this story including her mother's faith in the daily horoscopes and that a good makeover can change everything.  Frankie's story has a touch of crisis as well and it is interesting to watch the friends help and hold back; counting on each other to know the right thing to do.  The characters are very well done and the setting does seem so picture perfect. 

My favorite quote introduces Groovy's great-grandmother:
You see, your great-grandmother was very smart.  She had so many books stacked up along the walls of her apartment that it was hard to walk without accidententally kicking over a pile of them.  Some of the piles were as high as my head.  She always said that good writers are even better readers, and she was a great reader.  She probably liked reading better than talking to most people. (81)
This wonderful character description could describe me or my friends!!

And my second favorite quote reminds me of my own childhood in a small town:
Here's the good thing about living in a small town: You get to know most everyone.  Here's the bad thing about living in a small town: You get to know most everyone. (154)

I know many students who will enjoy this book and its connection to family and dealing with a family  member's arrest and jail time.

Highly Recommended for elementary-middle grades
5/5 peaceful stars

Stroll over to April's Cafe of Dreams and find all kinds of great stories about author Kathryn Fitzmaurice.
At books are my thing, Tina says this about The Year the Swallows Came Early!
Click for the author's website.

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