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The Year the Swallows Came Early Hardcover – February 3, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With her passion for cooking, 11-year-old Eleanor, aka Groovy, dreams of becoming a professional chef. But her father, a compulsive gambler, bets away her inheritance from her great-grandmother, money she had planned to use for culinary school. At first Groovy is as angry as her mother, who has Groovy's father arrested, yet during the next several weeks she learns that broken dreams, and broken families, can be rebuilt. Debut novelist Fitzmaurice creates a sympathetic heroine in Groovy and an interesting sidekick in Frankie, whose estranged mother makes a sudden appearance shortly after Groovy's father is jailed. Although nature metaphors (a surprise earthquake, birds returning early, dandelion seeds blowing in the wind) are overdrawn, the author's use of food motifs (particularly Groovy's ability to associate different dishes with specific events and moods) appears more relevant and smoothly integrated. Fitzmaurice does not completely resolve the family conflicts, but she provides hints that love will conquer old resentments. Ages 9–12. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–7—Watching helplessly as her father is taken off to jail, Groovy Robinson, 11, is convinced that there has been a terrible mistake. When her mom admits that she turned him in because he gambled away the $25,000 savings account that Groovy's great-grandmother left her, the child shrinks into herself-disappointed, hurt, not caring about anything. Not until Groovy-now wanting to be known as Eleanor-heeds the advice of the homeless old sailor Mr. Tom does she grasp that people we love can hurt us, but that only through forgiveness can we become whole again. This first novel is peopled with three-dimensional characters whose imperfections make them believable and interesting. Groovy's big-talking, ne'er-do-well dad donates a trailer to Mr. Tom. Her beautician mom is guided by astrology, but her boundless love for Eleanor is totally grounded. And Groovy's perceptive friend Frankie is unable to grasp the real reasons that his immigrant mother left him in his stepbrother's care. The well-structured plot is underscored by clear writing and authentic dialogue, and short chapters keep the story moving. The book draws a parallel with the birds of Capistrano, and a novel that encourages understanding, tolerance, and forgiveness is as welcome as the returning swallows.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 750L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061624977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061624971
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,146,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

When Kathryn was thirteen years old, her mother sent her to New York City over the summer to visit her grandmother, who was a science fiction author. After seeing how her grandmother could make the characters in her books into whomever she wanted, Kathryn decided that she, too, wanted to become a writer someday. Years later, after teaching elementary school, earning her Master's Degree in Education, and taking many different writing classes, she now writes full time and lives with her husband, two sons, and her dog, Holly, in Monarch Beach, California. Visit her website at www.kathrynfitzmaurice.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sal on March 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes me want to buy it for all the kids I know. The Year the Swallows Came Earlyis one of those. A small gem.

It's a story about a little girl, Eleanor (Groovy) Robinson, who has been betrayed by the one she probably loves best in the whole world, and there is so much to love about this book I find it hard to know where to start with my praise.

In the opening page the author makes us several promises. She promises to deliver a thoughtful character. A little girl who looks below the surface. The author also promises to deliver a book with picturesque writing and rich metaphors. Lastly she promises to look at betrayal. She tells us that some things that look good--the perfect house, the beloved daddy--are hiding unpleasant things inside.

I'm here to tell you (to borrow a phrase Groovy's fond of), Kathryn Fitzmaurice delivers on her promises.

Groovy is a delightful narrator, a smart girl who feels deeply and makes the reader feel, too. She has a unique and unhurried approach to life and a mind that works at categorizing and understanding her world. Her way of using food and nature to view and understand what's going on with people is fresh and brilliant and moves the book from good to great. You can't help but love Groovy. She cares about her friends, wants to do right but sometimes fails, and loves her parents. In the end she's alive and well, and though not all is right with the world, you can rest assured that all is right with Groovy. She'll roll with the punches, that girl.

I loved the characters, and also the grace, the pace, and the artistry in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Even though the cover shows a happy girl celebrating the swallows flying by the sea, this book is so much more. Eleanor is the kind of girl you'd like to have for a best friend, and you feel for her when you find out that her dad goes to jail and that her dream of going to cooking school may be lost forever. As the story unfolds, you learn more about her best friend's worries, her quirky mother, family problems, betrayal and forgiveness.
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Format: Hardcover
Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson dreams of going to cooking school. She plans menus and tries recipes and hopes to be like Betty Crocker.

But the year Groovy turns eleven is the year everything changes. Her daddy is suddenly taken away to jail, her best friend's long-lost mother makes a return, and the trusty faithful swallows that migrate through her town appear early.

Growing up is hard and families can be difficult - and Groovy is learning to expect the unexpected.

Reading THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY was such a delightful treat! Groovy is a strong and lovable character whose growth throughout the story felt real. I felt like I was learning and growing along with Groovy as things were uncovered around her.

Author Kathryn Fitmaurice's writing is like poetry and her story pulled me in. Even though there was a lot packed into the story, the pacing was perfect and each chapter added a wonderful new layer to Groovy's story.

This is a wonderful pick for readers looking for something unexpected.

Reviewed by: Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen
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Format: Hardcover
Kathryn Fitzmaurice has written a gorgeous debut. Engaging, thoughtful, poetic, heart-warming & hunger-inducing! Groovy's narration is pitch-perfect, and Fitzmaurice has created an endlessly lovable - and for me - identifiable character in Groovy's mother, Lilliana. Loved it. This book feels timeless, and reminds me of favorites from my childhood. Instant classic. A ++
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Format: Hardcover
Kathryn Fitzmaurice's debut novel is a delight. Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson is a true dear of a character. She loves both her imperfect parents, dreams of going to culinary school and being a chef, and has heart and hope - even when that huge heart of hers breaks for awhile and the only things she can muster up strength to put on her to do list are eat breakfast and get dressed. Groovy equates food with life. She tells the reader that her house "was like one of those See's candies with beautiful swirled chocolate on the outside, but sometimes hiding coconut flakes on the inside, all gritty and hard, like undercooked white rice." But as a reader who will go back to this book many times, buy it for gifts and recommend it to every middle school teacher I meet, I think maybe Groovy has it wrong. The Year the Swallows Came Early is beautiful swirled chocolate all the way through to its heartfelt center.
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Format: Hardcover
Kathryn Fitzmaurice's novel, "The Year the Swallows Came Early" is a story about the value of forgiveness and the importance of following your dreams, no matter what. The main character, Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson, is engaging and so real, you feel as if she is in the room talking to you. The story is filled with so many special moments, many of which stir the emotions and leave you thinking about this story long after you have finished reading the last page. Eleanor is the kind of heroine who will inspire middle grade readers because she is courageous and honest, and she feels things so deeply. A tremendous first novel by a truly gifted writer, this is a gem of a book.
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