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The Summer of the Swans

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  9,462 ratings  ·  542 reviews
Sometimes you don't know what you love—until you almost lose it.

Sara's fourteenth summer was turning out to be the most confusing time of her life. Up until then, things had flowed smoothly, like the gliding swans on the lake. Now she wanted to fly away from everything—her beautiful older sister, her bossy Aunty Willie, her remote father, and, most of all, from
Paperback, 144 pages
Published April 21st 2005 by Puffin (first published March 30th 1970)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) West Virginia. I just re-read this and I understand your confusion, it's mentioned only in passing that they are in WVA and her dad went to NC when he…moreWest Virginia. I just re-read this and I understand your confusion, it's mentioned only in passing that they are in WVA and her dad went to NC when he deserted the family.(less)

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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,462 ratings  ·  542 reviews

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Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Slow, boring, completely forgettable. I read this because it's a Newbery winner but am struggling to come up with anything positive to say about it. 😕

The biggest takeaway for me is that unfortunately, this is an all too realistic depiction of life, both then and even yet today, for many households with a mentally handicapped child. The stresses and worries for the parent, the additional responsibilities and emotional burden shouldered by siblings, and the confusing and scary world th
Set in small town West Virginia during the 1960s (and basically a tale of family, friendship and yes, not always being so quick to jump to wrong, to erroneous conclusions), I first encountered Betsy Byars' Newbery Award winning Summer of the Swans in German translation (probably in 1976 when I was ten years old, but it might in fact have been a year earlier, in 1975). And I do well remember that I absolutely loved Summer of the Swans as a child (or Als die Schwäne kamen as the novel is known in German), that I ...more
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
We finished Summer of the Swans the other day (amazing how long it takes for us to read such a teenie little book). I was...underwhelmed. All the teachers who recommended it raved about it, but I didn't see what the big deal was. It centers around the relationship between a sister and her mentally challenged younger brother, who gets lost in West Virginia mine country. The idea itself was good, but the story was slow, and then it ended very abruptly. I would have prefered it better if the story ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade, fiction
The Summer of the Swans is your basic, run-of-the-mill teen drama fiction. It's not a bad book at all, and some of the author's writing was absolutely beautiful. The story follows Sara, a girl caught between childhood and adulthood, frustrated with her family and trying to find herself in the world when she feels like she doesn't belong. The book also addresses growing up with a mentally disabled sibling, a topic often not addressed in fiction. However, the book itself is incredibly out-of-date in it ...more
Connie  Kuntz
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read this with the kids. It's a nice enough story about teenage angst that touches on some interesting subjects including deceased mothers, absent fathers, mentally handicapped children. Unfortunately, it only grazes the surface of these issues and reads with about as much intensity of a corporate video about "Mutual Respect." Yes, it is well written, has great imagery, and it won a Newberry award, but I think it is too simple a story to take seriously. Even the description of the swans was fl ...more
Rena Sherwood
Yes, it won a major book award and it must have been a VERY bad year for children s' books for this to win. This was such a disappointment after enjoying Betsy Byars' The Winged Colt of Casa Mia.


Color me nutty, but if a book is titled The SUMMER of the Swans, perhaps swans should somehow be part of a whole summer instead of
This was a very good read aloud. We didn’t want to wait to find out what happened. Such a sweet book.
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this book that I loved so much as a child. Basically, this book is perfect. The trend in children's books now is that you have to grab the reader by the throat in the opening line and have non-stop action. But this gentle, contemplative book is of its time (the '70s) and is essentially character-driven. I remember as a nine-year old thinking this book was really "deep"--and I still think so! Also, I was really amazed at Betsy Byears' dead-on portrayal of autism, even though she doesn't ...more
Juli Anna
May 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry, but this was just a dumb book. The protagonist is completely shallow and unlikable and the story and themes were hardly developed. This is a classic tale of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" (to quote Joni Mitchell), but it's so straightforward and simple that I really don't see what distinguishes this story. Also, a minor peeve: I would expect a story called The Summer of the Swans to take place over more than two days' time.
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery
This probably would be better if it was longer; as is, it feels like an overlong short story. Underdeveloped all around, and terribly dated. Compared to this, RULES is a masterpiece.

Incidentally, I notice that a disproportionate number of Newberys take place in West Virginia, which is pretty odd.
Kathy Davie
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
A standalone fictional novel for young adults revolving around fourteen-year-old Sara, just hitting puberty with all the angst of it.

In 1971, The Summer of the Swans won the Newbery Medal.

My Take
Puberty is hitting Sara hard, and Byars is absolutely brilliant in her depiction of the angst and drama of a young teen with the frustrations about her father and her impatience with her little brother — this rings so true of sibling relationships! Her intense sense of right and wrong as we/>My
L Frost
Aug 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery-winners
Simple story. Typical teenage girl beginning to face uncertainty about herself although her life has been full of challenges. Not a very fast paced book but it's short so it doesn't take long to read. Not the most uplifting book, but offers a small silver lining at the end. I'm surprised it won the Newbery Award since it seemed fairly simple. The swans play a fairly small role despite the book's title. There is no foul language or use of God's name. No sexual references, not even kissing. There ...more
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
I read this one as a child; I am sure I did. I am certain because I was as obsessive as a youngster as I am now. I set out to read every Newbery Award winning book when I was about ten, and this 1970 award winner was on the list in 1979. The problem is that I couldn't remember whether I liked it or not. After reading it today, it became clear why: it is about as memorable as vanilla ice cream. It's not bad, it just isn't great. My fifth grade girls who read it for their literature circle enjoyed ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The ending was disappointing, & the dialogue seemed very odd. I didn't even like the main character most of the time. I'm not really sure why it was a Newbery winner, unless it was the fact that it dealt with the subject of mental disabilities.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
All the Kool Aid references sure did add some authenticity to the setting!
Katie Fitzgerald
This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom.

Fourteen-year-old Sara Godfrey lives with her Aunt Willie, older sister, Wanda, and younger brother, Charlie, who has some disabilities resulting from an early childhood illness and does not speak. This summer, Sara is feeling very unsure of herself. She is certain that Wanda is much more beautiful than she is, and therefore much more desirable to boys, and she is concerned that her life may have peaked in third grade. Sara's superficial
Jul 13, 2018 rated it did not like it

I had high hopes for this little novel for young people, but came away really disappointed. I couldn't get into the story and found the pacing of the plot sorely lacking. It was slow and plodding, making me wish there was some sort of action other than arguing with the aunt and going to see some swans on the lake. If you don't grab my attention in the first three chapters, I don't hang around for much more of the book. The father of the children in the story seems to be absent except in name, an
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: newberry-winners
I really did like this book, but it felt entirely to short. I feel like the ideas were there, but the surface of the various topics (death, absentee parents, coping with mentally challenged persons) were barely realized. It definitely could have been longer, but I still did enjoy it!
Jennifer Mangler
Read this one because it was a Newbery winner. It only grazed the surface of the things I found most interesting about the book, which I found frustrating. It read almost like an extended short story rather than a novel.
Overall I enjoyed the story, I just would have wished for a deeper character development.
I honestly have no idea how I felt about this book. Should I keep it? My edition’s cover is gorgeous.

However! I would like to take a moment to bash a certain mindset in many books .. the “OH MY LANDS I’M TALLER THAN ALL THE BOYS AND MY FEET ARE BIG AND THEREFORE UGLY.” Honey, you have size ten feet and are definitely well under six foot. I wear size twelves and am scraping it. Guess what? I’m still pretty. And if it really matters to you that much, the boys are still growing. You’re fourteen.

I loved this book - a tender depiction of Charlie, a 10-year old boy in WV, before they had a label for autism. I know other reviewers say "not much happened". Often my children ask me, "tell us a story from your childhood", a setting very similar to that of Sara and Charlie's - simple, rural, imperfect, gentle - and compared to present day overstimulated, oversized American culture, well, not much happened.

It was like looking back into a time capsule, reading this book, a time (1970) when peop
This was more of a reading assignment than a novel. I thought the relationship between Sara and her handicapped brother was sweet, but nothing else about this story was earth shattering. Really just a bit boring. I wonder how influenced I am as a reader by the cover? Look at it! Blah. I blame the cover. But I can't say that because that would make me THAT person. So, no. Not the cover. But, look at it!
Anne V.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: youngpeople
Set in a close-knit West Virginia community, this is the fast-paced tale of young Sara and her love for Charlie, her little brother. There is pathos, adolescent awkwardness, TV and humor in this 1971 Newbery Medal winner. I loved it!
Katie Weber
Aug 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book has potential in its story, but is so shallow. Trying to read through Newberry Medal winners, but can’t figure out why this won. Maybe for when it was published it did good things by mentioning “hot topics” for the time period?
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A sweet story about a girl and her special needs brother. A quiet voice and an honest narrative...a nice story. Audio version is well-done.
Benji Martin
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Review Originally posted at Newbery Pie

I jokingly said that I hoped that I would hate this one, so I could say, “The best part about this book was that I found a copy at the thrift store for 79 cents (true story)” in my review. Alas, I didn’t hate it at all. It would have made a great line.

I don’t know if I found Sara’s character totally unlikable. She was a pretty normal teenage girl, over-worried about looks and unimportant things like that. That’s just part of being a te
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Summary This book was about a girl named Sara and her brother named Charlie. Charlie is a boy who had brain problems and health problems when he was really little. Charlie has never spoken before he can understand what people say to him but he will not respond in words but will nod his head in response to what you had said to him. Charlie and Sara one day decide that they were going to look at the swans at the lake before they were to move to a different lake. Well they had a great time while th ...more
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is about a sister and a brother and there having fun during the summer but I think she should have said that but not yet.It frist stared when sara had to go to a new school and she didn'know anybody ay that school and then these girls came up to me and said what is wrong with you look at your face and your whole body then theysaid that and she ran as fast as she could to get home.But do you know what I whould have said to those girls i love the way I look and that 9is the way god made ...more
The summer of the swans is a girl that is on a summer vacation.she never had the perfect summer and shes had 14 summers thats gone bad for her.This summer its about to be different for her.theres a girl named Sara with a brother named Charlie and a pet named Boysie.Sara did not want to go on the vacation the summer.Her aunt are coming with her.her aunt names are aunt willie they went to a place in a house.when they get there she went in and she helped to bring the rest of the mornig Sa ...more
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Betsy Byars has written over sixty books for young people. Her first published in 1962 and since then she has published regularly. Her books have been translated into nineteen languages and she gets thousands of letters from readers in the United States and from all over the world.

She has won many awards. Among them are the Newbery Medal in 1971 for her novel The Summer of the Swans,
“It was as if her life was a huge kaleidoscope, and the kaleidoscope had been turned and now everything was changed. The same stones shaken, no longer made the same design.” 13 likes
“I have cried over myself a hundred times this summer, she thought, I have wept over my big feet and my skinny legs and my nose, I have even cried over my stupid shoes, and now when I have true sadness there are no tears left.” 11 likes
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