Monday, November 12, 2012

The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

From Goodreads: Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson loves cooking and plans to go to culinary school just as soon as she's old enough. But even Groovy's thoughtfully-planned menus won't fix the things that start to go wrong the year she turns eleven--suddenly, her father is in jail, her best friend's long-absent mother reappears, and the swallows that make their annual migration to her hometown arrive surprisingly early. As Groovy begins to expect the unexpected, she learns about the importance of forgiveness, understands the complex stories of the people around her, and realizes that even an earthquake can't get in the way of a family that needs to come together.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice's lovely debut novel is distinctively Californian in its flavor. Her rich characters and strong sense of place feel both familiar and fresh at first meeting--and worth revisiting, again and again.

My Two Cents: This is a lovely book that's not loud or overbearing, set firmly and beautifully on the California coast. Groovy has a realistic set of problems and a realistic set of strengths, and the way both develop over the pages of this book are really touching. A great lesson in loving, accepting, and forgiving imperfect parents, being a loyal friend, and pursuing your passions.

Grade Level: 3-6

Additional Resources:
Kathryn Fitzmaurice's website, including discussion questions
An article for kids on the swallows--and how they're starting to skip San Juan Capistrano
Recipe for Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pops (I think Groovy would approve!)
Earthquake overview, facts, and activities
A fun migratory bird game--it's like Oregon Trail for birds! :)

More to Read:
Another book with a strong heroine where both animals and a complicated parental relationship factor in: Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko
Another seaside story about a young girl figuring out her place in the world: Junonia by Kevin Henkes
Another book with a strong sense of place and a girl who finds strength beyond her family: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

1 comment:

  1. I've been meaning to read this--thanks for the reminder!