Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker, 2012

If you’re looking for a sweet story, you probably wouldn’t consider one in which two twelve-year-old girls bury an old lady in the garden and lie about her death so they don’t have to be shipped off into foster care. But that’s just what Stella and Angel do, and sweet is just the word I’d use for this one.

Stella has spent her whole life searching for threads to tie her to the earth. She’s always felt she’s spinning out of control, ever since her mom left her. Grams’ house was well-grounded, but then Gram died and Aunt Louise took her in, along with a second foster girl named Angel who mixed with Stella like oil and water. But Aunt Louise never mentioned her bad heart. When she dies, both girls need to buy a little time. Stella is sure her mom is going to come for her by the end of summer, and Angel is waiting for her own aunt to get approval from the state to become her legal guardian. And George and the summer cottages where Aunt Louise worked are right next door. They could cover for her. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to hide the truth for just a little while.

From such crude beginnings, this story takes a decidedly poignant twist. Friendship grows up between the two girls, though they are complete opposites. The summer becomes one of self-reliance, discovery, and maturity. They grow like the gypsy moths that are wrecking havoc on Cape Cod that summer: “They’d fed on the leaves in the dark of the night, until they were able to fly. You had to admire them for that. They did what they needed to do, in the dark so nobody would bother them, getting ready for their big adventure of becoming moths.”

Both of these girls have had a tough past. Angel, in particular, is deceitful, bitter, and conniving. She’s also in the habit of saying “Jesus querido,” which is Portuguese and the only reason I haven’t granted this one the Squeaky Award. The book does have a feeling of desperation, a dose of all that’s wrong with culture in America today. But there’s also hope and love and redemption. I enjoyed this one a great deal. If you’re in need of a dose of sugar, pick up a bad of Dom-Doms and Summer of the Gypsy Moths. 10+

8 thoughts on “Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker, 2012

  1. I loved the writing, of course, and the growth of these two characters, but I had a lot of trouble getting past the grisly situation of the aunt dying and them burying her in the garden. This was one of those books where you just want to shake the character and say, “Tell someone!” Which I guess shows how real they felt to me!

  2. I’m never going to get anything done, if I keep reading your recommendations. This is an unusual book, but intriguing. I’m back from my trip. And, I read you “Color of Freedom” while flying and and during my free time. You are good! Loved this book as much as did your trilogy. But, I alo see how you’ve become more seasoned as a writer. Love the research.

    1. Thanks, Patricia. I see it too. Did you have a good trip?
      My daughter just finished a history unit at school on the beginning of the Revolution. She’s just started reading this one. She’ll enjoy it a lot more now.

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