A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Caterpillar Summer is a lovingly rendered story of a 11-year-old Cat and Chicken, her 7-year-old bother with special needs, who are suddenly sent from their home in San Francisco to spend the summer on an island off North Carolina with their maternal grandparents, whom they've never met. Their mother, author of a picture book series called Caterpillar & Chicken, is busy working in Georgia. There are some perilous moments when Chicken gets lost or runs away, and there's a family of boys who bully and hit their younger brother. Author Gillian McDunn's own experience of having a brother with special needs informed this story. Chicken's special needs are not defined, but he's senitive to noise and touch and tends to fixate on things.
What's the story?
In CATERPILLAR SUMMER, a sister who protects and cares for her brother wth special needs finds that staying with her grandparents over the summer is not as disappointing as it promised to be. In fact, life in the little community of Gingerbread Island, North Carolina, allows Cat Gladwell to receive some care and support that she'd long been missing. A family secret sets Cat on a path to figure out why her mother never talked about her childhood, or the loving people Cat's getting to know as her grandparents.
Is it any good?
Touching, eloquent, and rendered like a watercolor, this is a great summer read for tweens who like stories about family and travel. Caterpillar Summer makes the most of familiar summer-book elements -- last-minute change of summer plans, an older sister who uses her ingenuity to keep her younger brother special needs under control, grandparents with a mysterious past, ocean views and bike rides with the freckled girl down the street, neighborhood boy that the girls have to one-up because he's such a bully, and ice cream, early morning walks on the beach, new skills learned, and mysteries solved.
There are challenges, and the family mysteries are subtle and deep, but the characters know how to laugh, even if they feel scared or awkward. Though it doesn't avoid complicated situations, Caterpillar Summer allows for the grace that some adults possess to come through, which feels comforting in a big, busy, sometimes scary world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how race is portrayed in Caterpillar Summer. Cat and Chicken's father was African American, their mother is white. Is Cat treated differently in North Carolina than in San Francisco?
Cat's brother has special needs, though they are not given a name in the story. How much time does Cat spend taking care of her brother? Does it affect her social life? How would you react if your sibling had needs like Chicken's? What would you do differently than Cat?
Cat and Chicken's mom works a lot, and the kids have to arrange their lives around their mother's work life. Does this seem realistic? Do you think parents who work are portrayed fairly in the media?
- Author: Gillian McDunn
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs, Ocean Creatures
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
- Publication date: April 2, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: April 26, 2019
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