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The Canning Season (National Book Award for Young People's Literature (Awards)) Hardcover – May 7, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Series: National Book Award for Young People's Literature (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (May 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374399565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374399566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,660,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

As in Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, Polly Horvath tells the story of an abandoned child who is sent to live with two distant relatives in a big, lonely house. The magic in Horvath's story, however, lies not in talking bugs but in the hearts and minds of its characters. Thirteen-year-old Ratchet Clark, a girl with a deformity on her shoulder blade her breezily cruel, self-absorbed mother calls "That Thing," is unceremoniously kicked out for the summer while her mom attends to important things, like how to gain entry into the prestigious Pensacola country club. Mom drops Ratchet off at her great second-cousins' enormous, turreted house in Maine, a remote seaside estate surrounded by oily blueberry bogs and bears.

What starts out as a fairly grim proposition transforms as Ratchet befriends the endearing, downright hilarious 91-year-old twins Aunt Tilly and Aunt Penpen who are "as different as chalk and cheese" and learns the ways of rural Maine. When another unwanted teenage girl named Harper ("obnoxious, but strangely compelling") enters the scene, the household dynamic changes yet again. Though fairytale-like in its setting and its charm, do not be fooled. Suicide, decapitation, wretched mothers, and a sprinkling of profanity pepper this poignant, philosophical, darkly humorous novel that dips into subjects from technology to love to death. In Horvath's capable hands, readers are left believing in the best of human nature as she switches effortlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again. Wild stories, brilliant dialogue, and vats of compassion distinguish Newbery Honor author Horvath's latest offering. (Ages 12 and older) --Karin Snelson

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-Horvath outdoes herself in this tale of lonely, friendless Ratchet Clark, who lives with her uncaring mother in Pensacola, FL. One night, out of the blue, Henriette packs her daughter onto the train to spend the summer with two elderly relatives, twins Tilly and Penpen, who live in an area of Maine so remote that servant-eating bears are a constant menace. Here, with her outlandishly eccentric great-aunts, Ratchet hears gruesome yet darkly humorous stories of family lore while experiencing, for the first time, some love and care. Harper, another parentless girl, soon joins Ratchet. The approaching canning season becomes not only a metaphor for that moment in each life when everything is ripe, but also provides Ratchet with the self-confidence found in working with others and with a means to support herself. Offbeat, slapstick humor is mitigated by poignancy in Horvath's distinctive rollicking style. There is occasional use of strong language, and the family stories are woven with death, often gruesomely described. Parents take a big hit in this novel, leaving Ratchet and readers with the message that one finds happiness and peace in oneself. The Canning Season, like Horvath's Everything on a Waffle (Farrar, 2001), reads like a tall tale with fantastic and realistic elements interwoven. And, as in a tall tale, Ratchet, Tilly, and Penpen become larger than life and unforgettable. Readers are in for a wise and wacky ride when they open this novel.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

I understand why It won The National Book Award.
Barbara Campbell
Altogether, I found there wasn't a person in this story I really cared about or wanted to know more of later on down the road.
E. R. Bird
She celebrates the unique people we meet in life who help us become who we really are.
Sarah Cee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cameron M on November 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When Ratchet's neglectful mother ships her off to her great aunts' house for the summer, she isn't sure what to expect. Especially when the great aunts, PenPen and Tilly, are twins who haven't gone farther than the post office from their mansion in the boonies of Maine since they were teenagers.
When Harper, an obnoxious but lovable teen, is accidentally dropped off because her guardian thought their house was an orphanage, yet another humorous and heart warming twist.
Rich with dry humour and sparkling wit, full of eccentric characters, The Canning Season will make you laugh out loud, or chuckle quietly to yourself at the absurdity of the situations in the book. The characters take silly things completely seriously and the combination of events throughout the course of the novel are guaranteed to make you smile.
Don't be turned off by the childish looking cover. This is a hilarious novel that everyone will enjoy, from old ladies just like PenPen and Tilly to their teenage grandchildren.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved Polly Horvath's newest novel The Canning Season. For the short-attention-span reader, Horvath may be a bit too thoughtful,a bit too cerebral, but for those of us who love a creative inventive writer whose words and images are always wholly original and surprising, this is a great book.
Pen-Pen and Tilly are characters in the best Roald Dahl sense, carved a bit from reality and even more from fantasy. Still, I find a bit of many people in both of Ratchet's lovable aunts and am grateful that in a time when many kids have nowhere to turn, the aunts seem to be there for all of us.
And Ratchet! How can anyone not love and admire a girl so sturdy she can withstand the winds of a horrendous mother and still have some affection for her. Polly Horvath knows that kids are stronger and more resilient than we give them credit for being, and they can weather crises without teams of people intervening.
I had great fun reading The Canning Season and am having an even better time remembering it. That, it seems to me, is the true test of a great book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Barganz on February 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
After reading this book from the library - I turn here to buy it and thought I would check out the ratings.....for me it was 5 star all the sugar coating here but a warm and straight forward tale - one that I am more then willing to pass along to my daughter and maybe if I can twist my sons arm - him as well. A few "F-bombs" aside (which they use maybe 2 times in almost 200 pages - believe me even though this isn't a word that we use - I have heard it and worse from the kids at the school where my children attend in their fine up-scale middle/upper class neighborhood), Why would I want to hide such a wonderful story about life from my children? As a parent I don't own rosy colored glasses nor would I put them on my a parent we try to protect our children but I am not keeping my children in a box - what happens when they turn 18 and are no longer in the boxes we put them in? Who is there to shelter them then?

This is a story filled with warmth and humor and truth about realtionships that we have no control over. It's about change ( even thought for 72 years nothing had changed - when those two girls hit the house things changed) and love and finding happiness in who you are....

"Penpen said that Tilly lived the way she had chosen, in the woods, uncluttered and undisturbed and that we have to love people as they are, free from what what we want them to be..."

Two ladies live in a way that makes them happy and give two teenage girls a home, stability and love - something that neither have had in any great supply. It's an honest that I have no shame in claiming that I love.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Bailey on January 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My 9 year-old and I read this book together. It is wonderful, touching, funny, and fairly sophisticated. I must warn you that if you are upset by curse words and unplanned pregnancy, then this book will upset you. However, it is a great story about Ratchet's summer with her elderly aunts in Maine. There is no sugar-coating of adult subjects, but rather honest treatment of them from a child's perspective.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on September 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
" 'How can we have opinions if we have no idea what you're talking about?' asked Penpen gently.
" 'You gals ought to keep abreast of things,' said Mr. Feebles.
" 'Why?' asked Tilly grumpily. 'What good does it do you? It seems to me, from what you've been telling us, that everyone these days knows everything about everyone and the split second it happens, too. What do they do with all this information? What does it get them? It just clutters up their peaceful quiet time. It seems to me from what you've been describing, nobody has peaceful quiet time anymore. Television, bah! Radio, bah! Newspapers, magazines, bah, bah! Sounds like the world is running off half-cocked, people getting zapped with their little hits of information. Needing it every day. Zap, zap, zap. Well, deliver me. Contagious. Like hoof-and-mouth disease. I hope you're not contaminated. Don't go trekking it all over our property.'
" 'Very funny,' said Mr. Feebles. 'You're a queer couple of ladies, is what you are.'
" 'Yes, yes,' said Tilly, 'those queer Menuto women. I know all about it. Now, you drive gently on those rutted roads and don't go breaking those blueberry jars.' "
Changes just keep creeping up on us.
"And Penpen's eyes welled up as she realized that Tilly was no longer a young girl, as if seeing her white kinked hair and wrinkles and suddenly realizing what they meant. That old age had come and what had seemed like an interesting diversion--the first few gray hairs, the stooping body--wasn't just a pleasant novelty. They weren't going back; they weren't ever going back. Their youth, their youth, was gone. It was as if, unwitnessed, out here, safe in the woods, they should have been out of time as well. If no one had seen their passing, they shouldn't have passed.
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