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Dandelion Summer

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2019 PenCraft Award Winner - Mystery/Sleuth Told through the keen eye of an adolescent, a story exploring the bonds between fathers and daughters, mother and child and how families manage their secrets, big and small. When Madelyn learns her father will be gone for the summer, she thinks it’s the worst thing that can happen. But missing him is soon replaced with the challenges and surprises right in front of her. What is her mother hiding? Why has her grandfather disappeared from their lives? Unraveling the mysteries brings about unexpected discoveries and connections, ultimately leading her to know herself and understand what matters most.

293 pages, Paperback

Published May 30, 2019

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About the author

Mary Ellen Bramwell

5 books28 followers
Mary Ellen Bramwell, a bestselling and award-winning author, has been writing stories since she was ten years old. After working in other fields and raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, Mary Ellen returned to her first love, writing. She resides in the Mountain West with her husband of over 35 years and her youngest son.

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5 stars
48 (38%)
4 stars
46 (36%)
3 stars
24 (19%)
2 stars
5 (4%)
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2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
867 reviews94 followers
August 2, 2022
Well, this was a surprise. I thought I was reading a story of an adolescent dealing with her father going away for the summer and how much it upset her. Spoiled girl acting out.

What the book became was so much more. A thriller, murder mystery, cerebral palsy, sheltered workshops, adult illiteracy and so much more, especially weeding dandelions. By the end a wonderful family oddessy with heaps of most interesting things going on. A journey well worth it.

Profile Image for A.J. McCarthy.
Author 8 books129 followers
April 22, 2019
I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was immediately pulled into this story by the historical flashback and the mystery of how it tied into the future generation. The author did an excellent job of developing characters who faced challenges on several levels, but who worked to overcome those challenges and, in the process, established and renewed bonds that couldn’t be severed. Many complex relationships are explored and exposed in this novel, all tangled in with secrets and surprises that kept me turning the pages. An excellent read!
Profile Image for Jill Hand.
Author 58 books137 followers
May 31, 2019
Mary Ellen Bramwell sent me a copy of Dandelion Summer in exchange for an honest review.
Growing up I never cared much for YA/Middle Grade novels. Sorry, Judy Blume, but I wasn't interested in what Margaret might be saying to God. The Sweet Valley High crew left me cold. However, there was one series I couldn’t get enough of when I was a preteen and that was Trixie Belden. Those I liked because they were mysteries. Dandelion Summer is a mystery, as well as a coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman if you’re being fancy. It’s good, as in future classic good, IMO.
Fourteen-year-old Madelyn’s summer gets off to a rocky start. It’s 1975 and not only is Maddy’s best friend moving away, but Maddy’s father announces that he has to go out of town for the entire summer. That leaves Maddy stuck at home with her mother and her younger brother and sister. She’s not happy about it. She’s a daddy’s girl and like many kids her age, she’s self-absorbed and somewhat bratty. But as the summer unfolds Maddy begins to grow up.
Each chapter takes in a day of the week in a ten-week period; with each day presenting new revelations and challenges. That may sound preachy, but it’s not. Bramwell handles this family adventure with a deft touch. As we read we come to like Maddy and cheer her on.

I assumed Maddy’s parents were getting divorced, and the “dad’s working out of town” story was a ruse to explain why he wasn’t coming home at night. That was a mistake on my part. There were secrets in Maddy’s household, but impending divorce wasn’t one of them.
It turns out Maddy’s mother is hiding something, something big. She can’t read. When Maddy discovers this she’s determined to help her learn.
There are other secrets brewing, such as the whereabouts of Maddy’s grandfather. Turns out he’s in jail for committing murder.
I won’t give away any more of the family’s secrets, but there are many. As the summer unfolds Maddy learns how to deal with them.
The characters are well-developed and the pace is fast. I highly recommend Dandelion Summer for middle grade kids and adults who enjoy an intriguing mystery as well as a heartwarming story that emphasizes core values.

Profile Image for Christine.
328 reviews2 followers
August 29, 2019
Dandelion Summer is bound to be a page-turning mystery for the 8-12 set. The plot is thoroughly developed with foreshadowing to help young sleuths solve the mystery along with protagonist Madelyn. The writing is accessible and the cast inclusive of those with disabilities in a non-patronizing way. However, despite being set in the 1970s with flashbacks to the 1940s, racial diversity is absent.

This book's organization should also appeal to younger readers, with chapters being organized by weeks and then days in the summer, with flashbacks along the way. Some readers may be put off by Madelyn's vacillating between behaving as a much older teen or a much younger child, depending on the situation. She is clearly struggling to know her place as her role in the family changes, which is a major plot point, but certain passages had me wondering if this character was pure wishful thinking (or at least I don't know any teens who'd invite a boy over to help mow the neighbor's yard...).

Hard themes are explored in this novel, including illiteracy, war, and family relationships. There are some great messages along the lines of trusting your family (in both directions, not just teens trusting parents), of anyone being able to help anyone else regardless of age, and doing the right thing even when it's lucrative to not.

As an adult reader, the pacing was a little slow but coupled with the small amount of suspense, younger readers may appreciate the time to absorb details and hints to mentally tuck away until later.

This would be a fun book for parents and kids to read simultaneously and discuss, much like Madelyn and her father do with The Hobbit. This book is full of likable characters with their own flaws who work together toward a common goal. The themes are primarily positive and there isn't any bad language or inappropriate scenes. It's an easy, enjoyable read.

I received this book for free in order to review it.
Profile Image for Sharon Middleton.
34 reviews7 followers
April 2, 2019
Note: Spoilers!

I was skeptical when I started this novel. Maddie seemed like a typical, immature, selfish teen. It was “all about me.” But then a miracle happened. This was the summer when Maddie grew up.

I was impressed as the carefully wove the transformation from girl - brat - to young woman. I was even more impressed as later after layer unfolded, revealing the heart of the story.

I wept as I read how Rachel hid her inability to read for so long. Some of my most treasured memories are of my mother reading to me, and teaching me to read. I credit her with my voracious love of reading.

It was heartbreaking to read how Rachel hid her inability to read. I cannot imagine the hardships this woman encountered every day. I wept as her family and friends all helped her learn to read.

I cried even more because I am mildly dyslexic yet mastered my condition early. I still catch myself reversing letters as I type. I am even worse with numbers. So, Rachel’s untreated dyslexia definitely hit a chord.

And through it all, the mystery. I love a good mystery. I envy people who can weave all the threads together through a book to create a mystery. Bramwell nailed it. I knew they would clear Dad, but I did not anticipate where Dad hid the art. Clever!

All in all: a remarkable coming of age novel with a fascinating and intriguing mystery. Well developed characters with an important story to tell. Definitely a five star read!
Profile Image for Myrtle Brooks.
Author 6 books8 followers
May 27, 2019
Sometimes when trouble of massive proportions comes to call, the things you worried about before become a lot smaller. Although, like unwanted dandelions dotting a lush green lawn, rooting out your concerns one-by-one proves a formidable task.

Thus, Madelyn’s summer unfolds: each chapter a day of the week in a ten-week period; each day portraying with clarity a stairstep to a teenage girl’s maturity.

Dandelion Summer is a sensitive, empathetic family tale, whose characters are fleshed-out and real: Madelyn, a born leader whose courage and outspokenness help her Mom follow the same course and stand on her own. Mom, more a child than her children due to an afflicting condition she has withheld from them. Grandpa, a bitter, guilt-ridden widower jailed for a murder committed under mysterious circumstances which impact the entire family. These, their stories, come together to form the whole.

This lovely book is excellent for middle-grade readers, as it emphasizes these core values:

Place what is most important first, even if other matters have to wait.

Take the initiative.

Mutual cooperation accomplishes great things.

Everyone is not always as they appear: good or bad.

I found Dandelion Summer an altogether enjoyable read.

Profile Image for Debby.
931 reviews17 followers
July 1, 2020
While checking on the availability of a book titled Dandelion Summer by a different author, I cam across this on e by an author ai'd never read or heard of for that matter. I took a chance on this one and I'm SO glad I did. What an enjoyable story with several captivating and heartwarming plot threads and great cast of characters. Dandelions do play a central part in the story too.

I look forward to checking out more of Bramwell's work.
Profile Image for Ange.
4 reviews
December 22, 2019
A refreshing narrative

What a lovely writer. The perspectives are clear & refreshing. I would recommend this very enjoyable read to anyone. It’s not too predictable, the details are beautiful & very enlightening, bringing clarity & depth to the story whilst bringing relatable memories of being that age again, very clever.
53 reviews
May 2, 2023
The book had a promising start. One family, across 2 generations impacted by 2 different wars, and what seemed like a poignant father-daughter story. However, it quickly left both these threads and became a 2 penny whodunit. I so wish that the author had resisted the urge to go after the absolutely mundane mystery, and instead explored the earlier themes in the story.
Profile Image for Amanda Mahan.
Author 1 book3 followers
May 13, 2019
A coming of age story reminiscent of "To Kill a Mockingbird," in all the right ways. Readers will find themselves rooting for the main character as she embarks on a quest for justice, leans into family, and grows into herself. Thanks for a great read.
Profile Image for Dana Biscotti.
Author 2 books2 followers
July 11, 2019
I enjoyed the protagonist's summer of growth. She was forced to accept responsibilities in the family, which led to delightful surprises for her and the reader as she strengthened her relationships with her mom, her neighbor, her friend, and the rest of her family. It was a fun read.
Profile Image for Deb.
32 reviews
September 3, 2019
I had a hard time putting this one down. I’m not sure if a fourteen year old could’ve actually handled all that went on here but all in all I think it’s a great read for middle schoolers. I highly recommend it for Christian based libraries and schools as well.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,295 reviews15 followers
April 3, 2020
Maddie seemed like a typical, immature, selfish teen. Her dad was going away for the summer and she was mad. It was all about me. But then a miracle happened. This was the summer when Maddie grew up. And what a summer it was....Present and past....mystery and family
233 reviews
December 28, 2019
Very enjoyable story with really likable characters. Some things were a bit unrealistic, but I still enjoyed it.
21 reviews
March 14, 2020
I liked the storyline but found it moved a bit too slow for me. There were “days” at the end of the book that could have been deleted without negatively affecting the outcome.
Profile Image for Ruby Schmidt.
280 reviews
November 24, 2020
Excellent book

This book was excellent. Such a wonderful & heartwarming story. I absolutely loved it. I will recommend to all my friends.
Profile Image for Gail.
305 reviews
June 15, 2022
Very interesting story that had teenage struggles, parents struggling and several interesting mysteries that were reveal that summer that helped the mother and her daughter bond better. Good story.
Profile Image for Lynseygibs.
85 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2022
A happy 3.5 stars. A bit cheesy a bit unbelievable but and all round good book with a bit of everything thrown in
Profile Image for Judith Pratt.
Author 6 books6 followers
May 18, 2019
Mary Ellen Bramwell sent me a copy of her book!
It's a teen-tale (YA, they calls it). Madelyn's father has to be away all summer--and he's her favorite parent.
Then she discovers that her mother can't read. In 1970--for her mom, 1950, no one diagnosed dyslexia. That's fascinating, as is Madelyn's journey to help her mom learn to read.
Also intriguing: Madelyn's uncle has cerebral palsy and is in a sheltered workshop. I didn't realize that CP can come with intellectual disabilities. But Uncle Tommy eventually saves the day--he and his friends take on the bad guys!
The interactions within Madelyn's family and friends seem a little modern to me--people talk about their feelings clearly, and say "I love you" often. My family was very supportive and loving, but in the '60s and '70s, we didn't say any of those things out oud.
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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