Charlyn Trussell's Reviews > Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
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Jul 27, 12

bookshelves: family_story, friendship, grief, orphans, realistic-fiction, strong-female-character
Recommended for: Grades 4 and up
Read from July 26 to 27, 2012, read count: 1

(Review of ARC)Most of Stella’s life she’s never had what could be called a normal life. Her mother is a single parent with problems about responsibility. The last time she left Stella alone, the child was picked up by child welfare and sent to live with her great-aunt Louise. In addition to Stella, one other foster child, a girl named Angel, lived with Louise. Angel and Louise are about the same age, but that’s where the similarity ends. Louise referred to them as “water and oil.”

Then one day the girls came into the house from school and Angel immediately realized something was awry. And it was. Louise sat in a chair in the living room, but she was dead. Both girls knew what would happen to them if Louise wasn’t alive to care for them—they’d both be sent out to new foster homes. So, they made a pact: they’d carry on the care of the rental cottages and other things around the house and not tell anyone about Louise’s death.

It wasn’t easy. They had no money, they had to take care of renters who came to stay in the cottages Louise had overseen and clean then after the tourists left, and they had to hide her death from George, the only other adult in their life who knew Louise’s role in the girls’ life.

Fortunately, Stella was able to use her vast knowledge of Hints by Heloise to do many of the things for which Louise’s experience was needed. And, together, the girls buried Louise in the backyard and began forging the relationship that would be needed to keep this terrible secret. But how long can one keep a secret about a lady buried in the garden? And how long can water and oil be a successful team?

Fans of Clementine should know immediately that Stella is NOT Clementine and there will not be much humor in this story. Neither Stella nor Angel have had a good life. In the movie in Stella’s head, she sees her mother returning for her and the two living happily there in Louise’s home; Angel, on the other hand, has an aunt from Portugal who has come to America to rescue her once the aunt has a job and a place to life. Angel’s dream is built on reality; Stella’s dream is built on wishful thinking. It seems there will never be a happy ending for Stella.

Sara Pennypacker weaves magic out of words the way a chef produces a great dish using the same ingredients everyone else has. The book is full of carefully etched pictures. Stella speaks at the beginning: “…it must be…people are connected somehow. I like to imagine the ties between us as strands of spider silk: practically invisible, maybe, but as strong as steel. I figure the trick is to spin out enough of them to weave ourselves into a net.” Through Pennypacker’s words, the reader will make those connections with Stella and want to find out what will happen to this child.
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