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My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer



Girl stands up for gay mom in slight but thoughtful story.

What parents need to know

Educational value

June's research into the Baker v. State case that led to the civil union law being passed in Vermont will inform some readers about the same-sex marriage debate. Although the law and the fight to pass it aren't discussed in great detail, readers may identify the story with recent news events.

Positive messages

The main character starts to understand the importance of standing up for what you believe in after prejudice directly affects her and her family. Another character refuses to let others' attitudes affect her actions and gathers support from surrounding areas to show solidarity.

Positive role models

Though June is initially resistant to her future stepmother, her struggle is relatable, and her gradual acceptance of Eva is believable. June's steadfast friend Luke provides her with support and encouragement, even when June is unsure of herself.


Some older boys make mean remarks to June about her mother's sexual orientation and make fun of June for being afraid to jump off a cliff into the lake. At another point in the story, a kid falls off the same cliff and nearly drowns.

Not applicable

Derogatory slurs/remarks such as "homos," "lezzie," and "queers shouldn't have children."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer main theme is prejudice against same-sex marriage and gay people in general. When June's mother decides to marry her girlfriend under Vermont's civil union law, June is uncomfortable with the negative attention she receives because of her mother's decision. June is bullied by some older boys, and her family is targeted by local townspeople, who boycott her mother's store, place offensive signs on their lawn, and gossip openly about how they disapprove of the relationship between June's mother and future stepmother. The content includes some anti-gay slurs, and some townspeople accuse gays of being pedophiles and spreading AIDS.

Parents say

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What's the story?

June has always known that her mom was gay, and she's fine with that. What she's not fine with is her mom's new girlfriend moving into their house on the lake and changing their lifelong routines. Furthermore, when her mom plans to marry her girlfriend in a public wedding ceremony, many of the townspeople openly discuss their disapproval in front of June, putting June in the awkward position of both wanting to stick up for her mom and agreeing that no changes should be made. June takes comfort in perfecting her pie-baking skills and working to win the local fair's pie competition, but when the townspeople start targeting her mom's store, June can no longer ignore the prejudice and must decide where she stands.

Is it any good?


MY MIXED-UP BERRY BLUE SUMMER is more interesting for its subject matter than its riveting plot or deeply developed characters. June's initial resistance to her mother's marriage -- not because of anti-gay feelings but because of a fear of change in the household -- saves this story from being merely didactic and adds some real depth to June's dilemma.

Other elements, such as June's pie-making expertise and her fear of jumping in the water, seem contrived to provide an easy and almost too-tidy means to both highlight and solve her problems. That said, June's emotional growth is believable, and the resolution is satisfying.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how June's discomfort about standing up for her mother. Have you ever been in a situation where it was hard to speak out about what you believe in? How did you handle it?

  • Have your parents ever admitted that you were right and they were wrong about a decision you made, such as when June goes against her mother's wishes to enter the pie-making contest, yet her mother is ultimately glad she did?

  • What do you think of mixing fiction and real recipes? Do you think you'll try to make June's wild berry pie? Do you think the decision to include a recipe at the back was a good one -- or a gimmick?

Book details

Author:Jennifer Gennari
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:May 8, 2012
Number of pages:119
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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