Monday, June 24, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Today’s Pick: Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Published by Balzer & Bray, 2012

From Amazon:

From Clementine author Sara Pennypacker, this is a poignant middle-grade novel about two foster children who must find a way to work together in order to survive.

Eleven-year-old Stella misses her (unreliable) mom, but she loves it at great-aunt Louise’s house. Louise lives on Cape Cod, where Stella hopes her mom will someday come and settle down. The only problem? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. The two girls live together but there’s no way they’ll ever be friends.

Then Louise suddenly passes away one morning—and Stella and Angel decide not to tell anyone. Now they have to depend on each other for survival. Now they are forced to trust each other with the biggest secret ever.

With great empathy and humor, Sara Pennypacker tells the story of two very different girls who unexpectedly become each other’s true family.

My Take:

As an adult reader, the plot of this story sometimes stretched believability for me, but I’m not sure it would for a middle grader. Once I accepted the idea that the two girls could hide Louise’s death from other people, it was interesting to see how they managed to cope and how their relationship changed as they tried to solve the problems that came their way. I loved the quirkiness of Stella relying on helpful hints from Heloise.

The cover illustration on the copy I read threw me off a bit and made it seem like this book was for younger kids, who might find some elements of the story a little disturbing. But I see they have changed it for the paperback edition and that one is more in keeping with the tone of the story.

As a writer, I’d return to this novel to see how the author used details to give the characters and the setting personality.

Favourite Quotes:

“A full moon lit the backyard silver, so bright the trees threw clear shadows on the ground. But I still heard rain—not a soft gentle rain, but a sharp pattering that made me shiver.”

“Angel elbowed me to shut up, but it was no use—my blabber instinct had kicked in full power.”

“The music flooded through my cramped-up heart and burst out in tears, hot and wet on my cheeks.”

Opening Line:

“The earth spins at a thousand miles per hour. Sometimes, when I remember this, it’s all I can do to stay upright.”

Other Info:

Sara Pennypacker lives in Massachussetts. When she was growing up, she loved art projects and reading, and did her school work quickly so she could get to something more interesting, like making sculptures out of bars of ivory soap. She was also obsessed with baseball!

On her website, she describes her writing process: “I want every sentence to be as clear as it can be, as interesting, as well-written, and as moving. I revise a lot - I rewrite everything at least twenty times!”

Other Books Include:
Sara is the author of the Clementine series. Some examples:

Clementine and the Spring Trip
Clementine and the Family Meeting

The Talented Clementine

...and more!

She also wrote four of the Flat Stanley series:

The Mount Rushmore Calamity
The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery

The Japanese Ninja Surprise
The Intrepid Canadian Expedition

For more info, visit Sara Pennypacker’s website.

Visit author Shannon Messenger's blog for up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!


  1. That stretching credibility thing can be a problem! Like you, I don't think children will care, but it always does take a little of the fun out of the book for me. At least the characters in this book do address the fact that they think someone will find them out, so it didn't make me stretch as much as some other books!

  2. Thanks for your review. My daughter loved the Clementine books, but she hasn't shown much interest in this one yet. Maybe she'll pick it up this summer.

  3. This book is very famous among MG writers. I have on my tbr list and hope to get to it soon.
    Thanks for the review.


  4. Like you, I needed to get past the hide the death part...mostly the body, if that makes sense. But having said that it really was great to watch and feel the growing friendship and see how resilient those girls were, something kids really are!

  5. I loved this book, perfect for summer reading. I do agree, though, some of it was a bit imaginative, but I think middle graders would understand that. The relationships were definitely the best part of the book.

  6. Interesting that she revises everything at least twenty times.

    I'm one of those readers who didn't care for this book. Mainly because of the body! And the fact that the girls didn't tell anyone. *shudder* Have to admit, though, the friendship was well done.

  7. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review, I've never read it and wonder what they did about Louise. I love the Clementine books.

  8. This book sounds nuts. And I agree, the cover does not match the content. It is a fun loving summer read about hiding a dead body?!! Based on the cover, I would have got it for my 9 yr old but not after your review. Wild.

  9. Thanks for sharing! The book sounds interesting and I might check it out to see if I should share it with my students.


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