I have always been a fan of Sara Pennypacker, especially her Clementine books. She just has a way with creating characters that I think really connect with her readers. So I was excited to find out that she had written a book for older readers, middle grades, called Summer of the Gypsy Moths. I was even more excited when I found it on the new shelf at my local library.
Two twelve year old girls find themselves staying with an elderly foster parent near Cape Cod. Both come from tragic backgrounds. Stella never knew her father and her mother was incapable of taking care of her. Angel's mother was killed in a car accident and her father drowned at sea. Stella's Great Aunt Louise takes them both in even though they come from very different backgrounds and don't get along at all.
When Aunt Louise dies of a heart attack while the girls are at school, they have a choice to make. Call the police and both get sent to yet another foster home, or learn to handle the summer vacation cottages on their own and stay independent. They choose the second and go to some pretty drastic actions to keep the death of Louise a secret.
The owner of the Linger Longer vacation cottages, George, comes around and teaches the girls what it takes to change the cabins over for the next round of visitors. The girls tell George that Louise has fallen and hurt her ankle and wouldn't be able to help for a while so the girls handle it all.
Angel works harder than she ever has, learning survival skills she has never had so she can earn enough money to get to New York to live with her aunt, a recent immigrant. Stella follows her collection of Hints From Heloise articles and keeps the Linger Longer cabins running smoothly. She dreams of her mother coming to live in Cape Cod and together the two of them taking over the care of the cottages from Louise.
The girls learn to live and work together and then become the closest of friends. Each learns from the other how to do things they never thought they could. Throughout the story the girls worry about the secret in the pumpkin patch and in a way grow even closer to it.
It will take a pretty strong middle grade reader to understand this book, but when we kick off this year's version of the Bailey Newbery Club, Summer of the Gypsy Moths will be one of the title I put on the reading list.