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The Summer Before Boys Hardcover – May 10, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews


"A vivid and moving story about traveling the road between childhood and what comes next. I loved it."
--Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of WHEN YOU REACH ME

“Perfectly captures the way a girl’s life can be suspended between the last days of childhood and the glimmerings of her first crush. The Summer Before Boys is a novel of great depth and tenderness.”
--Frances O’Roark Dowell, award-winning author of THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS

"An extraordinary novel explores the challenges faced by children whose parents have gone off to war.
. . . Baskin adeptly portrays Julia’s ambivalence and anxiety in this thoughtful tale that artfully brings the war to the homefront." - KIRKUS, April 15, 2011, *STAR

"Baskin perfectly captures friendship among girls on the edge of puberty, especially the way big dramas work out in small moments. . . . A poignant story of children on the homefront and the ways that a first love can break up longtime friendships and change things forever."
--Booklist, March 1, 2011

"Baskin covers this emotional territory with respect and honesty, allowing readers to see themselves in these complicated, yet likable, girls."
--The Horn Book Magazine

It is a rare story for kids of this age that treats such matters with straight-forwardness and without mushy and ridiculously high hormonal responses. This is not Twilight; it's a gentle story about two long-time friends and how they figure out who they are when one of them starts to see boys in a new light. There is a big adventure at the end, which ends up better than you would have thought when it started. There is no salacious gossipy junk to muddle up the story. Instead, Baskin writes real-life characters that kids will relate to, especially girls, and gives them a story they will take to heart because most readers will know that this is going to happen to them (or perhaps already has). It's a nice story about a normal part of the growing-up process, and readers and parents will appreciate Baskin's gentle but pointed storytelling techniques.

THE SUMMER BEFORE BOYS is highly recommended for a tween's bookshelf --- right alongside all those books about your changing body and relationships. There is no AAA map to guide one through the craziness of puberty, but books such as these and protagonists like Julia and Eliza will surely cast some helpful glow on the proceedings.

--- Reviewed by Jana Siciliano

About the Author

Nora Raleigh Baskin is the ALA Schneider Family Book Award–winning author of Anything But Typical. She was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for her novel What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows, and has since written a number of novels for middle graders and teens, including The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah, The Summer Before Boys, and Ruby on the Outside. Nora lives with her family in Connecticut. Visit her at NoraBaskin.com.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416986731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416986737
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,359,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Summer Before Boys was a couple stories in one. The first deals with the that time in life where we begin to lose our youth and become interested in things like boys. The other story is about the sacrifices that member of our Armed Forces and their families make during times of war and deployments. Both stories are intertwined in a simple and beautiful manner.

Julia and Eliza are best friends and relatives. They love to read and pretend. They read the classics- Little Women and Little House On the Prairie. There is magic all around them as they imagine the lives of these characters and create there own. However, at 12 years old, things are beginning to change for Julia at least. Sometimes she can't see the same things Eliza sees. Julia's also begun to notice boys. One boy in particular. This change threatens to tear Julia and Eliza apart.

The other part of the story is the part that touched me the most. Julia's mom is serving as a nurse in Iraq. The current summer near the end of her deployment is mixed in with flashbacks to the past year, when Julia and another student were sent to special counciling for students with deployed parents. The worry and longing for her mother's safe return is so strong. Nora Raleigh Baskin did a particularly good job in describing what it's like to have a parent serving in the military far away from home. It was a wonderful reminder of what the families of our men and women in uniform must go through not only while their loved ones are away, but also how different things can be when they come back.

I found this book to be so moving and real. I understood these girls. I was always reading the same books as they did. I could see myself in their shoes. I also appreciated the harsh realities of war and having a mom so far away.
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Format: Hardcover
It is the summer of 2004, and Julia is staying with her Aunt Louisa (who is really her sister, 22 years older than Julia). Her father was laid off from IBM and is now manager of a gas station and has to work a lot, and her mother, who joined the National Guard, was deployed 9 1/2 months ago. She and her niece Eliza (who she calls her cousin, since they're both 12) are best friends, with their own imaginary games, including one where they fantasize about parasol and carriage days. Uncle Bruce, Eliza's father works at Mohawk Mountain Lodge, which has been around since 1862, and Julia and Eliza spend a lot of time exploring the grounds. This summer is different than others, however, since Julia is starting to notice boys, and is becoming less interested in the imagination games that have bound her and Eliza together.

This is a lovely coming-of-age novel that I think pre-teens and tweens will enjoy and relate to. Julia's worry about her mother, and her growing crush on a particular boy will resonate with many. The familial relationships are well-written and believable. I enjoyed it; it made me recollect that awkward "in-between" feeling - when you're not quite a little girl any longer, but not really old enough to be a young woman.

QUOTE (from a galley; may be different in final copy):

They come in person. They come to your house in their full dress uniform and then you know. You know it's not good news.

Book Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Parents: This is a good clean read.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought this was a great coming age story with lots of life lessons in it. Boys, school, family. Everything that you grow up with and come to learn. What I like most about this book was how it talk about the war and how it effected her.

Julia grows up so fast and so much just over the summer. Her mother has been over seas for the war and Julia is alone with her father which forces her to do things on her own. Julia is a very smart, bright girl. And even thought she made mistakes, I loved how real she was. She does her best to go to school and spend time with her friends, but you can see the pain of not having her mother there in her feelings.

There aren't a lot of books that talks about the war with kids in them. I love how well Ms. Baskin got into the mind of a pre-teen dealing with the hurt, anger, and separation of parent. At times, Julia needed her mother badly. She needed that guidance and counsel that only a mother can give.

I especially love all the stupid stuff that they giggled at. Boys, and spelling names wrong. This book is great for girls just coming into the their teens. Its had a lot of real like issues that anyone can relate to. The Summer Before Boys is a great story filled with lots of feelings that flow right off the pages. It simply adorable and a great read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
author does not have a grasp of the 12-year-old emotional landscape - the characters and the prose and the vocabulary all seem to be targeted to 8-year-olds - the questions in the back sounded more like Oprah's book club than suitable for a school class
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Format: Paperback
This book was cute, but it wasn't great. I was hoping for a cute fluffy read similar to Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. But the Summer Before Boys feels more like a first draft or a summary than a finished book.

I liked the idea that the majority of the book is spent inside Julia's head as opposed to following a plot. I thought this was rather creative. And I loved how the author handled the war. Her focus, because Julia's mother was in the war, is on the women involved in wars. But I loved how this was not an "anti-war" campaign, but rather about the harsh realities of war and - more specifically - about the effects of those left behind. I thought this was handled beautifully.

But while the title and description of the book made it seem like this was about Julia finding her first love, that was not the story being told. Julia is smitten by Michael (although I'm not sure why, since our first introduction to him shows him as a jerk), but we really don't get to know him except in Julia's head. And then after only the second time they are alone, Michael kisses her (in a way too smooth for any real 12 year old boy, I might add). I guess I just didn't appreciate how there was really no build up. We see how Julia is completely in love, but barely we see how Michael feels about her, and then it's over. The book takes a 180 turn, drops the romance and turns into the story of Julia and Eliza's friendship.

There are also multiple story-lines going on. There's the slight romance angle which lasts for maybe a quarter of the book; the angle of Eliza and Julia's friendship and their imaginary world of Lynette and Lester; the story of Julia's mom in the war; and the story of Peter, the only other kid in her class who has a parent in the war.
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