Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she's the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She's the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.
But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn't go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another's shoes.
A book that makes you hold it close in a hug at the end and just sigh. My heart broke over and over again for Cat and Chicken and everyone around them . . . it broke and it also filled up with love. I never thought I would care about sharks, or fishing, so much! This is quite possibly my favorite summer read, and it's only early June!
If you look at my "reading dates" you will likely notice that it took me more than a month to finish with Gillian McDunn's Caterpillar Summer. And the reason why this has been the case is simply that I kind of majorly lost interest for a while because at least to and for me there are far too many obviously and standardly tried and true plot and theme coincidences and also just too many stereotypically rendered characters present in Caterpillar Summer to make McDunn's novel all that personally enjoyable and interesting as a reading experience.
For while yes, I have indeed much loved the family home by the beach environment and the evocatively descriptive manner in which the author presents and depicts especially Gingerbread Island and the Atlantic Ocean and how Chicken's special needs and issues are fortunately and usually not what ONLY defines him and his personality (and that I do find both Caterpillar and Chicken as well as Lilly and Macon wonderful and for the most part richly nuanced as characters, not to mention that the fact that Caterpillar and Chicken are biracial is generally just portrayed as natural, as a given and no big deal) unfortunately, many of the characters who inhabit the pages of Caterpillar Summer (such as Caterpillar's friend Harriet and certainly main bully John Harvey Dawson and yes indeed, even Caterpillar's and Chicken's mother) are much too one-sidedly stereotypical either good or loathsome, with especially the mother and her almost complete focus on her work and her often seemingly just ignoring not only Chicken's special needs but also that her daughter Caterpillar should not just be present in the family as a baby-sitter and caregiver for her little brother really totally bothering me (in particular since I also find the mother's behaviour often considerably less mature than that of her daughter, than Caterpillar, that I find the mother overly selfish, entitled and furthermore also not nearly enough criticised by author Gillian McDunn).
Combined with the fact that both the long standing conflicts between the mother and her parents (Lily and of course in particular Macon) and the entire scenario of Chicken being thought to be lost in the storm (even though he actually was not even lost in the first place) are standard and repetitive literary tropes which I have read in far far too many Middle Grade children's novels and actually in literature in general, while I have certainly found Caterpillar Summer not a terrible or in any manner an unacceptable, unreadable novel, I also have not managed to be either all that enchanted or really much personally and emotionally moved by and involved in especially its themes and contents (and certainly just enough to consider but two stars for Caterpillar Summer and to yes having been more than a bit personally disappointed), with the added (and necessary) caveat that for readers who are vegetarian or vegan, the fishing contest and hat it is such a large and much important part of Caterpillar Summer might well and also be something anathema and not all that pleasant to read about.
I really enjoyed this story about family and forgiveness. Cat is always taking care of her younger brother Chicken, for their mom and it’s not easy. Chicken is autistic and that make him a bit more challenging for most people. He gets upset easily and has a tendency to run off in public places. But his sister Cat is the most responsible older sister, and she does a great job looking out for him. The only problem is, she is always responsible for him. I really fell in love with Caterpillar! When plans change unexpectedly the two siblings end up at their grandparents for a few weeks during summer break in North Carolina. This sounds great, but they’ve never even met them before. At first it’s uncomfortable and awkward, but over time a relationship is formed and the kids fall in love with the island and their newly discovered grandparents. Cat even gets to be a kid again, as she learn to fish with her grandpa for a fishing contest coming up. I loved this book! Such a feel good middle grade story! I highly recommend it! Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books and NetGalley for this ARC. My opinions are my own.
When Cat (aka Caterpillar or Catherine) and Chicken (aka Henry) are sent to live with their grandparents, they discover a family they never knew they had. It reminded me a little bit of the classic Heidi another story in which a young girl bonds with a grandparent.
I read this one with my fourth grade students, so my review is mostly based off of them.
This one was great! I teach in Georgia, so my kids found it really fun to read a book that talks a lot about Atlanta. I thought this was a great book in many ways and brought up a lot of great discussions like about other cultures and Autism. My students really enjoyed it and seemed to really connect to the character of Chicken (I am a special education teacher, so my kids have learning, mental, and physical disabilities). I also found this book to be extremely well written, especially compared to a lot of kids books.
My students LOVED the art in this book too! They thought it was so fun to have all the drawings of the Caterpillar and the Chicken represent the two main characters, and we got to talk quite a bit about comparing and contrasting.
What stood out to me: The relationship between Cat and Macon that changed and developed. That Cat and her mom keep the memory of a loved one alive by talking about him; Cat lets her younger brother “borrow her memories” of their father, because Chicken has none of his own. Memorable quotes: (Pg.191) “I miss him backward when I think about piggyback rides or cracking eggs. And I miss him forward when I think of all the things he isn’t here for, the things he won’t ever be here for.”- Cat (Pg.276)-“Sometimes holding a family together is not a quiet kind of work. Sometimes it’s exactly the opposite.”- Lily
If you're looking for something with heart, humor, tremendously likable characters and adorable artwork to boot, look no further. Cat is a fully realized and highly sympathetic heroine, determined to keep her younger brother, Chicken, safe - even as she sometimes resents having to do so. Her conflicting emotions are very real, as is the portrayal of Chicken's autism. The relationship between Cat and her grandfather is my favorite, but all the relationships are memorable and powerful. Can't wait to see what this debut author comes up with next!
This is a great MG novel. Everyone is fleshed out and layered and though this story takes place over the course of three weeks, it feels real and natural. I really related to the main character Cat. I have three younger brothers that I spent a lot of time looking out for and watching when we were all kids and so I saw pieces of myself in Cat, especially in regards to the way that she takes care of her younger brother Chicken (note, Cat ((short for Caterpillar)) and Chicken are nicknames these siblings prefer to be called, not their actual names). Chicken seems to be somewhere on the spectrum though a diagnosis is never actually stated aloud.
The island that they spend time getting to know their grandparents sounds dreamy and I like how the adults in here aren't perfect - they mess up a few times (and have in the past) but as I read more their love for each other and Chicken and Cat comes through vividly and I like that. Cat and Chicken's mom is a author/illustrator and I love that her drawings are included in here, they really added to the conflict and helped push Cat's inner story along. I also liked that Cat and Chicken are biracial (their deceased dad is black and their mom is white) and little things like people not always believing their mom is their mom because of their different skin colors or Cat not wanting to ask her grandmother to do her hair because Lily won't know how - that is something I think a lot of kids reading this will understand or have first hand experience with.
Basically this was a great story about family, friendship, fishing and summer. This is the author's debut novel and I am blown away by how enjoyable a read it was. I will definitely keep her on my list for future books.
Twelve year old Cat has never really had a chance to be a kid. Between taking care of her impulsive little brother Chicken (he's on the spectrum) and her distracted Mom (a picture book author juggling multiple jobs), Cat has always been the rock-steady anchor who holds her family together. Caterpillar Summer is the sweet tale of a girl getting back in touch with the wondrous child she is, even while she also gets to know her estranged grandparents. I loved this book for so many reasons it's hard to name just a few, but: The story within a story of Caterpillar and Chicken (her Mom's picture book series) which includes adorable illustrations and serves as a counterpoint to Cat's coming of age story; the setting of a summer spent on an idyllic island in the Carolinas; Cat's huge heart, which makes her hyper aware of the feelings of everyone around her, even as she struggles to understand her own. This book joins some other favorites on my shelf that explore relationships between kids and the elderly (I think of Janet Taylor Lisle's Quicksand Pond, Emma Donoghue's The Lotterys Plus One, and Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo's Ruby in the Sky, also forthcoming in 2019). This is Gillian McDunn's debut. I read the Advanced Reader's Copy. Look for it in April 2019.
Kids who take on adult responsibilities and the weight of the world and their loved ones on their shoulders are, if you haven't noticed, kind of my weak spot. Cat was exactly the type of character that I find oh so easy to fall in love with, and even easier to cheer for. This was a wonderful story about family and love, heartache and mending fences. Oh, and fishing, too! Highly recommended.
eu não aguento o quão FOFO e BONITO é esse livro. vontade de ter poderes mágicos, tirar a Cat e o Chicken do papel e dar um abraço apertado em cada um. levinho, a cara do verão, e com uma lição muito bonita sobre relações familiares e perdoar os erros do passado.
This familiar fish-out-of-water setup finds Cat and her younger brother staying with unfamiliar relatives in an unfamiliar place for three weeks in the summer. In this case, it's staying with their maternal grandparents on Gingerbread Island in North Carolina. At first, Cat resists her grandmother's kindnesses and the charm of the island, but slowly she begins to enjoy the vacation, spend time with a new friend, and learn about her family history. She is still attentive to her brother, Chicken, who has special needs, but lately she is becoming conflicted between his needs and her own. The kids' mother is totally blind to the fact that Cat is holding their little three-person family together after the dad died, which is way too much to ask of a fifth grader. Fortunately, Macon and Lily, the grandparents, give Cat the attention she needs and room to grow. In most children's books, it is the children who have the big realization that prompts them to change. A nice thing about this book was that there was growth for the adults as well. Gingerbread Island was just the cutest little island, complete with new friend for Cat and fishing contest to add a bit of drama. Cat and Chick are biracial, and their race is included matter-of-factly rather than as the central theme of the book. Cat experiences racism at the local ice cream shop, and when her grandfather realizes that this has happened, he makes it very clear that the behavior is unacceptable. This was one of the lighter children's books I have read. It was a quick, pleasant read with an optimistic ending.
Caterpillar Summer – Gillian McDunn Cat is a character I fell in love with from page one. Her determination to keep her impulsive little brother, Chicken, safe … and happy … and entertained … and out of her hard-working, single mother’s hair … is both admirable and bittersweet (she misses out on so many kid things!). When a last-minute change of plans sends Cat and Chicken to stay with grandparents they’ve never met for three weeks of summer vacation, Cat is worried about how Chicken will cope. But as the days go by, Cat makes friends, enters a fishing contest, and learns that she and Chicken are separate people who can function apart.
This funny, at times heartbreaking (have tissues handy!), and ultimately uplifting story explores the many varied and complex relationships that make up families, and hits home the important message that people aren’t fully good or completely bad, we’re all somewhere in-between.
As a former 5th and 6th grade teacher, I highly recommend Caterpillar Summer for both an addition to classroom libraries, and a great read aloud.
Caterpillar Summer is a favorite with our family already!
This heartwarming book is sure to be a classic. I immediately relate to the strong and independent Cat, and the adorable and challenging Chicken. I love the complex dynamics of an older sibling trying to do all she can to make sure Chicken is safe, but still--she's just a kid herself--and who is she in all of this? The dynamics shift even more when everything that is expected for the summer suddenly shifts, and more family adventures enter into the mix.
The setting swept me away, and the way the characters interact within the gorgeous environment is very much a part of what makes this book so special.
Emotional and authentic--dealing with difficult questions of identity, loss, sibling relationships, and independence, with moments or beautiful clarity and love, CATERPILLAR SUMMER is the perfect book for Middle-graders who like to get immersed in a story with characters they will always remember!
What an absolute privilege to read an ARC of CATERPILLAR SUMMER. "Full of heart" is a phrase applicable to (thankfully) so many wonderful middle grade books--but even among them, this book is an exception.
Cat and little-bro Chicken are forced to spend part of the summer with their estranged grandparents on an island in North Carolina, dashing all of Cat's hopes for her usual vacation. As is, it falls to Cat to care for Chicken; to chase after Chicken; to make sure he's safe and happy and calm. And now, Cat has the burden of those responsibilities AND the frustration of an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by unfamiliar people.
But as her connection to the island grows and Cat rediscovers her childhood, she finds more and more love where she least expects it: For her family, yes; but also for herself.
CATERPILLAR SUMMER is absolutely full of heart; the happy and the sad; and everything in between. Perfect for kids (and their parents too).
CATERPILLAR SUMMER is beautiful. I just finished this book and am already missing the characters, the scenery, the writing, all of it.
The story follows Cat and her younger brother Chicken. Cat is only 12 but has adult responsibilities, including taking care of Chicken while her mother works. Sadly, Cat and Chicken’s father passed away some years ago. Cat’s memories of her dad and the way she processes her feelings about missing him “in all directions” help us learn so much about who she is - a perfect blend of brave and vulnerable.
When Cat and Chicken unexpectedly spend a few summer weeks at their grandparent’s house, we learn more about a family history of mistakes, grudges and unintended consequences. Largely thanks to Cat, all of the bad gives way to the good as love, forgiveness and second chances take over.
My gratitude to NetGalley for an ARC of Caterpillar Summer in exchange for my honest opinion.
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CATERPILLAR SUMMER by Gillian McDunn stole my heart from the first page. Cat is there for her special needs younger brother. And when I say she's there for him, I mean she is THERE FOR HIM. Their relationship is printed on my heart forever.
But Cat and Chicken aren't the only two characters that stole my heart. I won't provide any spoilers, so let's just say the characters in this book are beyond lovable. Not perfect. Not superstars. But believeable, flawed people who try to do the right thing. Who grow and change. And who change each other's lives.
If that's not enough for a heartprint book, the setting of Gingerbread Island is totally endearing and captivating. I want to go there. No--I want to live there!
I highly recommend CATERPILLAR SUMMER to anyone who enjoys middle grade stories.
Dnfed this book halfway,. The writing isn't quite enjoyable for me. I don't like any of the characters either. A rare thing for me to not like a middle grade book. I can see why this book os a good one. I can feel what the author is trying to convey. However, I should not wait for a book to end when I am not enjoying it.
Cat Gladwell is an 11-year-old biracial girl who has way too much responsibility on her shoulders. Her African American dad passed away when she was younger, and now it's just herself, her mom, and younger brother, Chicken, a boy with special needs. Cat has always looked after Chicken while her mother, Amanda Gladwell, worked at home, writing a successful children's book series called Caterpillar & Chicken. Now she's committed to teaching a three-week Children's Literature class in Atlanta, Georgia and Cat can't wait for summer vacation and the trip from her home in California to Atlanta to see her old friend Rishi. It would be three weeks of just hanging out together and having fun the way they did when Rishi still live in San Francisco. There would even be time for him to play with Chicken. And some time to enjoy life would be nice for Cat, especially now that Chicken has taken to impulsively running off while they are out, something she has yet to tell her mother about.
If only Cat's mom had listened to her phone messages sooner, they would have learned that Rishi and his family were on their way to India because of family illness. What to do now? Mom, knowing she can't leave the kids alone in a strange city each day while she's teaching, she decides to take them to Gingerbread Island, North Carolina, her childhood home. Amanda hasn't had much to do with her parents, Macon and Lily Stone, so Cat and Chicken don't know anything about them.
At first, things are a bit awkward, except for Lily who is beside herself with excitement at finally meeting her grandkids. But there's so much tension between Amanda and her dad, that she leaves almost immediately, promising Cat and Chicken she will be back for weekends. Cat is delighted to be in her mother's old room, even if Chicken insists on sleeping with her, which is OK because being right on the ocean, she's really concerned about Chicken taking off.
But Lily knows just how to deal with Chicken and to two become fast friends instantly, something Cat has mixed feelings about. And Macon, whose a bit standoffish, just disappears into his workshop regularly. At the nearby playground, Cat and Chicken meet Harriet and her younger Neddie, along with John Harvey Dawson, who has taken an immediate dislike to Cat. She had also noticed the fishing trophies in her mother's room, and so when she hears about an upcoming fishing contest, one that John Harvey wins year after year, Cat decides to learn how to fish like her mother and beat him in the contest.
Naturally, mom's weekend visits don't happen, but gradually Macon warms to Cat and the two of them start walking the beach early in the morning. He even fixes and cleans up her mother's old bike for her to ride around the island with Harriet, the queen of fun. And though Cat seems to have broken through his reserved, she can't get him to teach her how to fish...or can't she?
I read Caterpillar Summer in the midst of the chaos that is my Kiddo visiting from China, so the gentle unfolding of this story was just what I needed. And I loved watching Cat grow in the realization that she has been given so much responsibility caring for Chicken and her mother's needs at the expense of her own needs and desires. And that Chicken and her mother have come to see that sacrifice as who Cat is for them.
Although Cat and Chicken are biracial, race is not a main theme in this story. Yes, they on a North Carolina island and there are a some instances of racist and bias attitudes, but for the most part, because their mother was so well-liked by the residents, the kids are just accepted as Macon and Lily's grands. And the point is made that Cat and Chicken know and have a strong relationship with their father's parents. What is also interesting is that the cause of the split between Amanda and Macon is her choice career, not her choice of husband.
Cat is a great realistic character. How many older girls are given too much responsibility for younger siblings? I know I was, and my brother certainly had his share of meltdowns, just as Chicken does. So I suspect a lot of readers will relate to Cat and her overly, almost territorial protectiveness of her brother.
Caterpillar Summer is a tender, poignant story about family, friendships, learning to ask for help when it's needed and, most importantly, learning to take care of oneself.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was borrowed from a friend
This is a middle grade contemporary story about two kids and what they learn on their summer vacation.
Cat has just finished fifth grade. She has a younger brother called Chicken who has just finished first grade. Chicken has some issues that sounded to me like he would fit somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. He is subject to "meltdowns." He is bright and very focused on sharks. Lately, he has taken to running off. Cat spends a lot of time taking care of Chicken so that their mother can write her picture books about Caterpillar and Chicken which Cat sees as loosely based on their life.
Cat is old enough to remember the father that they lost to cancer when Chicken was a baby. She thinks of herself as the glue that holds her family together. But, as she is growing older, she is beginning to feel the restrictions that taking care of Chicken are adding to her life.
They are looking forward to a Summer vacation in Atlanta where her mother is teaching a writing seminar and they will be able to spend time with their best friends who recently moved away. Things fall apart when the friend Rishi's family has to take an emergency trip to India to take care of his grandmother.
Cat's mom decides that the kids should spend time with her parents on an island in North Carolina. Cat has never met those grandparents. Apparently their mom and their grandfather had some sort of falling out. Cat is worried about taking care of Chicken and getting to know her stranger grandparents. She is also very disappointed that she won't be able to spend as much time as she wanted with her mother.
The grandparents and the island come as a pleasant surprise. Grandma Lily is good with Chicken which allows Cat to be a child herself instead of a caregiver. Her grandfather takes a bit longer to warm up to the kids but Cat is a persistent child. Between new friends, biking and a fishing contest, Cat comes to love living on the island and becomes determined that her mother and grandfather make up their differences so that they don't lose track of these new people.
Cat is thoughtful and older than her age mainly because of the responsibility she feels for her little brother and for her mother. The story was moving and engaging and I read it in one sitting. I recommend it for thoughtful middle grade readers.
I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley. This book has an interesting way of sharing enough details to provoke a lot of questions; I predict children reading this will have a lot of "whys;" why did the grandparents go so many years without seeing the children? Why was Cat treated so differently? Just what did Chicken experience? What caused the rift between Cat's mother and her father? How long before they would visit again? I had expected that there might have been more about the death of their father. The book has a gentle way of sharing differences while including commonalities.
I don’t normally log books I read with my kids on here because my daughter keeps track of them. But this book was so lovely and so important to us that I don’t want to forget it- and I want every family to read it. We all clapped as we read the last page.
The most important thing I can say about this book is GO GRAB A COPY NOW!! I read a lot of middle grade literature each year, but this is one of the BEST I’ve ever read.
Twelve-year-old Cat is Chicken’s older sister. She understands her little brother better than most and she is willing to constantly sacrifice her needs for his. This particular summer, they have plans to travel and stay with her best friend while her mom takes on a special class. But an emergency comes up, leaving Cat and Chicken living with family they’ve never met before. Many questions begin to surface during their stay, but most importantly: WHY have we never met this part of the family before?
The story takes place primarily on Gingerbread Island, which is brought to life with colorful houses, the smells and sounds of the ocean, an active community full of close knit neighbors, and an exciting fishing contest. The relationship building is so carefully crafted, showcasing an obviously deep, lingering hurt from the past.
“Being a parent is a kind of promise. A promise to stand by someone even if you think they’re making a mistake. To love who you get, not who you think you’re going to get.”
It’s hard to believe this was Gillian McDunn’s debut. I see she is under contract to publish The Queen Bee and Me with Bloomsbury in April of 2020. I have no idea what this book will be about, but I can’t wait to read it after this heart-warming experience. I highly recommend Caterpillar Summer!
For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!
Written when finished: Oh my HEART! I love this book. One of the best middle grade novels I've read (and I read a LOT of middle grade literature)!! Full review to come soon, but I'm keeping my eye on Gillian McDunn from this point, forward!
Sometimes kids have to grow up fast, and that’s the reality for Cat. Since her Dad passed away, she has to care for her little brother who is autistic. We’re talking food, bed times, chase him down if he runs off in public—basically, she’s the parent because mom’s working. Most of the time it’s all good, but once in a while, she wishes she could be free of the responsibility.
When plans fall through for Cat to stay with her friend while her mom works, she and her brother get shipped off to a little island off the Carolina coast. Grandma is thrilled to see them and friendly from the start, but grandpa is more stand-off-ish. When grandma takes over caring for her little brother, Cat suddenly finds herself able to explore new things, like fishing, making a friend, being a kid for once, and discovering the mystery of what happened between her mom and grandpa that caused the rift in their family to start with.
This is a powerful look at why relationships matter and why anger can be such a destructive thing if left to affect relationships for far too long. Gillian’s writing is real and powerful. I love the ocean and her descriptions brought me right back there.
Well done. I’ll be getting this one for my shelves.
This is a must-read middle grade. We feel so deeply for Cat so quickly, and those feelings only grow as the book goes on.
A few of my favorite things about this book: -Each character (even the side characters) experiences growth in some form. -The interpersonal relationships are so relatable, interesting, and layered. Cat and Macon's relationship is likely my very favorite, but I also love so much about Lilly, Chicken, Harriet, and more. -I super love that the 'bad guy' in this book isn't cliche bad, but instead both Cat and the reader learn more about him and his choices as time occurs. -Chicken is spunky and clever and adorable. He also has special needs. As a special needs family ourselves, I love that Chicken is his own person and that Cat and Chicken's relationship is challenged by their roles towards each other in such relatable and needed ways. All kinds of readers will be able to relate to these sibling relationship dynamics, whether neurotypical or otherwise. -Also, just look at that cover! Stunning! Their expressions, the light, what Cat and Chicken are holding (and what that means), them holding hands. It's all perfect!
This was such a cute story about life, growing, changing, understanding, and forgiveness.
Cat and her brother Chicken have never met their maternal grandparents. When unexpected circumstances causes their mother to need a place for the children to go for the summer, the two kids are dropped off at their grandparents, people they never knew.
Cat expected a horrible summer but never expected to fall so in love with her grandparents and the little island they live on. She discovers secrets and events from her mother's past that help explain the strained relationship between mother and parents. And she is determined to help mend their broken bonds.
I really liked the characters in this story. They were realistic and relateable. I also liked the representation of her brother Chicken and his social/emotional challenges. I think that if there are kids like him reading the book, it will give them someone in literature to relate to, so they don't feel like the only one.
It was a super cute book that I enjoyed as an adult, but I think I would also like to read to my 2nd/3rd grade students.
In Caterpillar Summer, author McDunn explores family secrets, bullying, friendships, fishing, summer living, grandparent relationships, the grief of losing a parent, and so much more. This moving middle-grade novel is both fun and tender and will leave you with a real summer feeling! If you love heartwarming stories about sibling bonds set in idyllic locations, then you should definitely check this one out. I listened to the audiobook and the narration is excellent.
Gillian McDunn has written a beautiful generational family story. The bonds between parents and children, siblings, and grandparents and grandchildren are very special. McDunn also reveals how fragile these bonds can be. She has created such real characters—I was rooting for Cat all the way! The descriptive writing drew me right into the story. I could feel myself on the beach and riding a bike on Gingerbread Island. I’m excited to share Cat’s summer story with my students.