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Summerhouse Time Hardcover – May 22, 2007
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–Eleven-year-old Sophie can't wait for her family's annual vacation at the summerhouse on the beach. But this year, her favorite cousin isn't talking to her and won't come out of her room, her dad is mysteriously aloof, and her cat runs away. Writing in short free verse chapters entirely from Sophie's perspective, Spinelli has nonetheless created well-developed characters. The family dynamics are believable, even if a large extended family whose members all more or less get along and vacation together every year might seem idyllic to today's children. Readers will enjoy Sophie's first crush and her wise handling of her cousin's crisis. Spinelli even throws in a smattering of Italian (Sophie is learning the language because the object of her affections has an Italian name), and some arcane information about American history that will keep readers amused and allow them to impress their friends with their knowledge. This is a fun breezy read, perfect for a preteen summer.–Nancy Brown, Fox Lane High School, Bedford, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Eleven-year-old Sophie loves Summerhouse Time. That's when she, her parents, and their extended family meet at a beach house to spend the month of August, made up of "morning trips to the donut shop, fish fry dinners, swapping stories." Sophie is a bit reluctant to leave home this year because of her crush on a neighbor boy, and once she gets to the summer cottage, things aren't as much fun as she remembered. For one thing, her older cousin, Colleen, is going through the terrible teens and isn't speaking to her. Then her aunt loses her job. Using simple free verse, Spinelli is still able to pack a lot of story into short sentences. Most of the characters are efficiently realized, and the book makes clear that though reality is never quite as perfect as memory, even hard moments can be rich. The ease of reading makes this a solid choice for children starting to feel comfortable with longer books. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Sophie tells her own story in short, quick-paced sentences that have a real flavor of pre-teen thought and feeling, and her family is sharply drawn and full of individual touches. She even manages to find out why Cousin Colleen is acting so dreadful (hint: it's *not* teen angst!). Above all, she learns that change is constant, but not always bad. Though very recent (2007), this warm and charming story deserves a place beside such classic and near-classic family books as the Melendys and Penderwicks.
But this year is different.
Sophie's dad is a high school American History teacher who has always had a part-time job during his summer break --- except, of course, during the month of August. This year Dad works hard at his part-time job, but he is unusually cranky and doesn't look well. Mom is a substitute teacher whose favorite saying is "The best things in life aren't things." She practices simple living, shops at thrift stores and gets upset when her old bathing suit no longer fits but refuses to buy a new one.
Also, a boy named Jimmy Gabbiano has just moved into Sophie's neighborhood. He is cute and shy and has a beagle puppy. Sophie wants him to notice her and thinks up ways to meet him without looking too obvious. After they finally become acquainted with each other, she decides to learn Italian and feels sad when she has to leave him for a whole month.
Sophie can't wait to share a room --- and some secrets --- with her favorite cousin, 14-year old Colleen, who has always made Sophie feel grown up and special during Summerhouse Time. After Sophie and her family arrive at the cottage on the beach, she is excited to see Colleen, but Colleen acts bored and ignores her. Then Sophie discovers that she won't be sharing a room with Colleen after all. Instead, Sophie is rooming with five-year-old cousin Tammy, a chatterbox who acts like a baby. And Sophie's cousin Cooper is afraid of water and won't swim in the ocean.
This year, Summerhouse Time isn't anything at all like it has been in the past. To pass time, Sophie practices her Italian, teaches Cooper to swim and writes letters to Jimmy while awaiting one from him. She fears that Jimmy has forgotten her and wonders if things will get any better before the month is over and it's time to return home.
SUMMERHOUSE TIME is a story about events that change and shape our lives. But most of all it's about the strength and importance of family, no matter what time of year.
--- Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt
Summerhouse Time is a story about Sophie who like most children that are 11 years old, can't wait for summer vacation. In the case of Sophie, she is anxious for her family to go on their yearly trip to the Jersey shore and spend the warm, fun summer days in the rented pink cottage with some of their other family members including her older cousin Colleen. Sophie adores Colleen as she looks up to her and likes to emulate her cousin. The trip as Sophie puts it is "better than Christmas".
With Sophie's best friend, Katie Johnson gone to spend the summer with her dad, Sophie is even more eager for August to come so she and her family can leave for New Jersey. One wrinkle in Sophie's waiting for the best part of the year, is the "new boy" on the block with the wonderful laugh and beagle puppy named Dakota. Sophie arranges to "accidentally" meet this boy when he helps her climb down from a tree she is up, supposedly looking for her cat, Orange. Sophie is quite interested in Jimmy Gabbiano to say the least. Sophie goes so far as to try and learn Italian because she decides it would impress him. As summer moves on and a friendship grows between Sophie and Jimmy (a friendship that she imagines might become more as she daydreams about him wanting to kiss her), Sophie realizes she will miss Jimmy and can't wait to be able to introduce him to Katie when they all are back home before school starts. Sophie talks Jimmy into writing letters to keep in touch while she is gone. She doesn't think he is that keen about it but when her mom hands her a package left on the porch the afternoon before they leave, Sophie changes her mind. Jimmy has left her a silver necklace with a tiny silver spider on it. Jimmy has a great interest in spiders so this is symbolic to Sophie and the note attached wishes her a great time on her holiday!
When Sophie and her family arrive at the pink house on the New Jersey shore, she runs to greet her idol, cousin Colleen, who is a bit standoffish to say the least. Colleen even says she is getting her own room this summer. When Sophie questions her aunt about why Colleen is mad, she is told the Colleen is "mad at the world". And so, Sophie begrudgingly rooms with Tammy, her 5-year-old cousin who calls her "Soapy". Sophie doesn't realize that to Tammy, she is the idol, just as Colleen is, or was, to Sophie.
The rest of August is spent filled with everything from scary stories around the fire to worrying about Sophie's dad and his health. But most of all, the Summerhouse time is different this year, very different! Letters written to Jimmy that seem like they will never be answered and the sudden disappearance of Sophie's beloved cat, Orange, seem to be the straw that breaks poor Sophie's heart.
Can Sophie really teach Tammy to swim and if so, why should she? Does Sophie begin to realize that Tammy looks up to her, like Sophie used to look at Colleen? Does the "secret" of the "bad thing" Colleen has done tear them apart or help to bring them closer as before?
How the summer vacation winds down and how these questions and more are answered make for a delightful fun and easy read. Summerhouse Time is a great book for beginning chapter readers. Characters are real and situations are ones that children can learn from and enjoy at the same time. Overall, the fact that Sophie comes to realize that this vacation is all about family and how important they are to her, is the glue that holds this story together.
Originally published at Curled Up With a Good Kid's Book ([...] Karen Haney