Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Published by Bloomsbury

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Summary:  Cat is excited to be traveling with her mom and younger brother Chicken to visit her best friend in Atlanta.  When there’s a sudden change in plans, Cat and Chicken end up on Gingerbread Island in North Carolina with their mother’s parents whom they’ve never met.  Grandma Lily is warm and inviting, and seems to have an intuitive understanding of Chicken’s special needs. But Grandpa Macon is distant, and Cat feels like he doesn’t want them there.  As the summer goes on, Cat makes a new friend, learns how to fish, and gradually comes to understand the estrangement between her mother and grandfather. In the same way her mom felt pushed aside by her grandfather’s dedication to his work as a surgeon, Cat often feels the weight of the responsibilities that come from her mother’s hard work and her brother’s Asperger’s.  A fishing contest at the end of their stay provides Cat with an opportunity to confront her mother about some of the issues their family needs to deal with. 304 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This beautifully written book by first-time author Gillian McDunn makes a perfect late summer read.  The descriptions of the island and its community sound idyllic, and the various relationships are layered and complex.  The ending is satisfying without being unrealistic.

Cons:  I found Cat’s mom annoying and didn’t always fully understand her motivation for treating Cat and Macon the way she did.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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