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The Summer I Learned to Fly Paperback – July 10, 2012

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 750L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385739559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385739559
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #767,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2011: It’s 1986, and 13-year-old Drew Robin Solo is waiting. Waiting for things to happen; waiting to feel moved by something--or, as it turns out, someone. Drew’s summer begins in her mother’s cheese shop, making pasta alongside handsome Nick and caring for her pet rat and constant companion, Hum. The mysterious nightly disappearance of the old cheeses Drew leaves behind the shop lead to Emmett Crane, a boy who effortlessly brings color to her monochrome life. By the end Drew is no longer waiting for life to happen, but instead asking, "How could people sleep when there was so much at stake, so much happening, when there were so many reasons to be awake and alive?" Nostalgic and beautifully written, The Summer I Learned to Fly is the coming-of-age story of a gentle and unassuming girl asserting her independence and experiencing meaningful friendship for the first time. --Seira Wilson

A Letter from Author Dana Reinhardt

Dana Reinhardt writes about her inspiration for her latest novel, The Summer I Learned to Fly. She has written four previous novels including the Sidney Taylor Award-winning Things a Brother Knows.

My mother, like Drew's, owned a gourmet cheese shop when I was growing up, and I spent many of my afternoons and weekends working there. It was a place where I felt at home, where I loved to go and just hang around. And like Drew, at age thirteen I had a much easier time relating to adults than to other kids, so my mother's store offered me a place to be with people I could talk to while escaping the puzzling world of junior high.

Though I did leave the day-old food in the alley, and though it did always disappear, I never found out who took it. That is to say, I didn't find my Emmett there. Real friendship came later for me. It took a while to find the people among whom I could be my true self.

I think of this book as an old-fashioned coming of age story--the kind I really loved when I was a young reader. The kind that's about the moment when we first begin to discover who we are, what matters to us, and what we would risk everything for.

This is my fifth book, but it just might be the closest I've gotten to the book I've always wanted to write, so I hope you enjoy it. Thanks, as always, for giving it a chance.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, May 23, 2011:
"Laced with mystery and fascinating details about Drew's chief interests--rats and cheese--this quiet novel invites readers to share in its heroine's deepest yearnings, changing moods, and difficult realizations. Strong imagery...will stay with readers."

From the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Why don't you have a bio section?

Because I hate writing about myself.

But wouldn't that be easier than answering a whole bunch of FAQs?

Maybe. Probably. Go on...

So where are you from?

I'm from Los Angeles, but now I live in San Francisco. Except for the summers where I go back to Los Angeles in search of the sun.

What are you doing when you aren't writing?

Laundry, usually. Sometimes dishes. And I really like to walk near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Why don't you run instead of walk?

Running is hard. And I'm sort of lazy.

Have you ever had a real job?

Yes. Of course I have. I've waited tables, worked with adolescents in foster care, read the slush pile at a publishing house, and fact checked for a movie magazine. I also worked for FRONTLINE on PBS and Peter Jennings at ABC. I went to law school, which I know doesn't count as a job, but hey, that was a lot of work.

What's your writing day like? Do you stick to a routine?

I like to write in the mornings. Sometimes that means I have to get up really early. I try to write 700 words a day -- about three pages. I know there are lots of writers out there who can write way more than that. I know this because writers like to tell you about how many words they've written on FACEBOOK. So I try not to look at FACEBOOK when I'm writing. And anyway, I've learned that 700 words are about all I'm good for on any given day, and if I write more than that I usually end up getting rid of most of it later.

What, are you lazy or something?

I already told you I'm lazy. But seriously, 700 words are a lot of words. 700 of them, to be precise.

Where do you get your ideas?

From someplace inside my head.

That's not really an answer.

Yes, it is. And it's as honest an answer as I can give.

Are your books autobiographical?

Not really. I'm not adopted, I've never told a lie that sent someone to jail, I've never built a house or had a brother go to war. But there are always things in my books that come from my life or from the lives of the people around me. It would be impossible to make up everything.

Why do you write young adult fiction?

Because I was a young adult when I fell in love with reading and I can remember how books made me feel back then. How they provided both comfort and escape. That might make me sound like a shut-in, but I wasn't. I was just open to the experience books offered, probably more open than I am now as an adult. And I like writing for that sort of audience.

What exactly is young adult fiction?

Lots of people have thought long and hard about this question and have had many intelligent things to say about voice and how YA books can't spend too much time on adult characters, etc. I don't have anything to add to the debate except to say that YA should be a place to go in the bookstore or library if you are looking for a coming of age story, no matter how old you are.

Do you have a favorite book?


Don't be coy, what is it?

To Kill a Mockingbird.

How come there aren't any vampires or wizards in your books?

Hmmmm... good question. Maybe I should write about vampires and wizards.

No, you shouldn't. You wouldn't be very good at that.

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Did you wear a Soupy Sales sweatshirt when you were seven?

Does anybody even know who Soupy Sales is?

That's what the Internet is for. Don't avoid the question.

I'm sorry, is this really a Frequently Asked Question?

No. But, c'mon, tell us anyway.

Yes, I did. But I'm trying to portray myself as someone who wasn't a total loser. So maybe you shouldn't bring that up. And it also makes me sound ancient, which I'm not. Yet I had a Soupy Sales sweatshirt. And I loved it. It was yellow. And really soft.

You're right. It does make you sound like a loser. Especially when combined with your earlier answer about escaping into books.

Well, if it helps, I was also a really good athlete. In fact, I was voted athlete of the year in 1983. Not nationally or anything. Just at my school.

No, that's not really helping.

Well, I also played the electric bass.

Now you're talking. That's cool. Were you in a band or anything?

No. I gave it up after a few months. But I did play it once in public dressed up in a chicken costume.

Okay. I think we might be done here.

You sure? Isn't there anything else you want to know about me?

If I think of anything I can just email you my questions, right?

Right. You can always send me an email to:

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
This was very well written and flowed nicely, so it kept my attention.
I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a well-written contemporary.
Tara Gonzalez
The author did a great job of writing from the viewpoint of a teenager.
K. Fraser

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tara Gonzalez on July 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Summer I Learned to Fly is a simple but beautiful and captivating contemporary story about a girl growing up in a small town. Even though Drew and I are no where near in age, reading about her summer before the eighth grade really reminded me of mine. Drew is a very striking and classic character, one that could easily be connected to by people of any age.

I loved the setting of this book. I love reading about small towns, and I think the town Drew lives in had a lot of character. I loved her mother's cheese shop, and all the parts of the story that took place in it.

Drew's curiousity about Emmett, and their interactions - especially at Drew's age and with previous lack of friends - were very well done.

My favourite part of this book was probably Drew's Dad's book of lists. I love the idea - the idea of finding this mysterious notebook in the top of a closet from a dad you don't remember and getting to know him through these random lists he left behind.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Summer I Learned to Fly. It was simple yet enthralling - a beautiful coming-of age-story with a wonderfully written protagonist in a town that could be a character all on its own. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a well-written contemporary.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Webb on July 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I genuinely enjoyed this lovely little story of a girl in a single parent home facing the realities of the recession (depression), ,loss of a parent, the mystery of the missing food scraps, and the eventual search for magical waters to heal another sick child she has never met. It becomes a buddy story , but not before a lot of genuine character development compels the reader to keep those pages turning to find out what is next ! Along the way the "always good girl" tries out some new depths to her personality and stubbornly keep chipping away at her crumbling, protective eggshell to emerge a bit more wise and a lot more confident.

The author has done a great job of keeping out of the way while letting the girl tell her story, her way, in her time. An uncommong success.

I strongly recommend this book to adults as well as teens for in it there are lessons for all of us. Well Done !
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Heidi (YA Bibliophile) on September 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book was not what I thought it would be. I was expecting the story of a summer. I thought it would start at the beginning and go straight through to the end. I figured there would be some unrequited love (the whole crush on the surf bum part) and a bit of drama with that. That was not what I got. Instead the book read more like a conversation. Drew is telling the story of her thirteenth summer. We're not sure exactly how old she is now (you find out at the end) but we know that she is looking back. I really enjoyed this approach.

One of the things really caught me was the way each section of the book built on the previous to make the story come together. It isn't the type of story where each chapter reveals more of what happens next. Interspersed among the linear story of what happened the summer Drew was 13 are sections that tell about important things in Drew's life. They might not directly deal with what is happening but they give the reader a great understanding of who Drew is. You really feel like you know her by the end of the book. Dana Reinhardt does an amazing job of forging a relationship between the characters and the reader.

The Summer I Learned to Fly is a poignant story of growing up, friendship, and believing.

Random Things I Loved:
*The titles rather than chapter numbers
*Drew's thoughts on Wisconsin :)
*The way Drew's mom signs her notes
*The "Book of Lists"
*Finding out how old Drew is now at the end of the story
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JAScribbles on October 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
It's difficult to find young adult, tween, or middle grade titles these days that tackle tough subjects, but are not a cover to cover downer. This book manages to present readers with some serious topics - but isn't overly sad. It is heartwarming, touching, moving - not heart wrenching.

The characters are likeable. The messages are subtle. The plot and pace slowly build and you find yourself cheering for Drew and Emmet by the time you reach the end.

I feel this book would make a great choice for school aged kids looking for something to read for a book report. There is a lot to think about - a lot to report on. It also happens to be free of swearing, sexual references, violence, etc. A great choice.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a so well balanced. I hope more readers discover it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie DeLuca on September 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There's something magical about this book. I'm not sure if it comes from the main character's voice (so authentic), from the quirky setting (a cheese shop trying to make a go of it during a recession), or from the story itself (I don't want to give anything away, but the story includes a charming rat and a charming boy with a secret). Or maybe it's the combination of all of those elements that makes this book supremely special and so poignant and enjoyable. The writing is so fluid and real (I never think of an adult author pulling the strings...I'm always with the character), and the characters are all so different from each other and are the kinds of people that are easy to root for. And there are emotional surprises along the way. I read it quickly because I couldn't bear to put it down; now I will go back and reread it carefully, admiring the author's craft and the way she brings these characters and this lovely story to life. In short, I loved this book!
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