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Silver Meadows Summer

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Silver Meadows Summer Book Poster Image
Poignant story of Puerto Rican girl adapting to life in U.S.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lovely inclusion of poetry by Spanish and American poets illustrates the way poetry can help people wrap their minds around a situation. A section in the back highlights three poets and their contributions. Spanish words and phrases punctuate the text, as well as descriptions of Puerto Rican and Cuban cultural identifiers and ways of life.

Positive Messages

For the traveler, there is no path, just the path you make by walking. Solutions can be found if you look for them. No matter what other people say or think, be true to yourself. Family is there to help. It is possible to move to a new place and still hold onto your culture. True friends can be found if you open your mind. Magic surrounds us.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carolina's father is supportive but not always engaged. Her mother is critical of her, telling her, "Enough with the art," discouraging her from befriending an artistic girl, but does allow her to visit that friend when the kindhearted and influential Uncle Porter says it's OK. The women in Carolina's life are busy, engaged, caring, colorful, and opinionated. Carolina and her family are from Puerto Rican. Her cousin, Gabriela, is half-Latina and half-Caucasian.

Violence & Scariness

Mention that man died in the woods by falling off a ledge, which makes his widow fearful of kids veering off the trails.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Emma Otheguy's Silver Meadows Summer is about a tween's struggle to fit into a new town and a new culture. Eleven-year-old Carolina moves with her family from San Juan, Puerto Rico to a small town in Upstate New York. Her cousin Gabriela, 13, is half-Latina and half-Caucasian, which Carolina briefly believes is what people think is the "right" kind of Latina -- lighter-skinned than Carolina. Gabriella struggles with a friend whose parents think that Latina teens "'get it' sooner," meaning "puberty," and "boobs."

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What's the story?

In SILVER MEADOWS SUMMER, by historical children's book author, Emma Otheguy, Carolina and her family leave their home in Puerto Rico to relocate to Upstate New York. Carolina's father has lost his job, and Caro's Tia Cuca and Uncle Porter open their home so that the family can get their footing during a major transition. Carolina's mother urges Carolina, 11, to give up being a loner and try fitting in with her 13-year-old cousin, Gabriela. But Caro's more interested in art and being with her younger brother, Dani, than in making friends. Tia Cuco and Mami send the kids to a nearby summer camp called Silver Meadows, where Carolina meets a girl named Jennifer, whom Gabriela thinks is totally weird. But Carolina and Jennifer both love making art, talking about elves and fairies, and they are on their way to becoming each other's first true friends. Carolina's homesickness for her beloved Puerto Rico competes with her desire to fit in to a new land and a new way of life.

Is it any good?

Fans of Latinx fiction might crave more Puerto Rican culture in this poignant story of tween friendship and adjusting to life in a new land. Though there's poetry in Silver Meadows Summer -- beautiful lines like "Caminante, no hay camino" ("Traveler, there is no path"), by Spanish poet Antonio Machado -- the person who delivers the lines, Carolina's Papi, drifts in and out of the story like a spirit. If Papi had helped Carolina find her own path, had been really engaged with her while she struggles to fit into the air-conditioned house in rural Upstate New York, the poetry might find more life in the story. 

Carolina's attraction to art inspires her to connect with a local girl named Jennifer, whose father is a painter. Caro finds herself enthralled by the artist, but he too drifts out of the picture, a missed opportunity. Kids will relate to Carolina's mother's urgent need to assimilate. But in this story, fitting in means whitewashing the culture shock that the family is feeling after the move. Caro and her father do steal a moment where they share a few words of Spanish, and Carolina helps make a fantastic Puerto Rican tooth fairy called the Ratoncito Pérez, which she sneaks under her brother's bed. Much of the food of the Carribbean, the stories, the colors are missing. But isn't that what happens when one moves? The old symbols, scents, memories and music fade. If only that vibrancy made more of an appearance in this story before it slipped away.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what being American means in Silver Meadows Summer. Carolina's family moves from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, to rural New York State. How hard is it for immigrant families to fit in? 

  • Gabriela carries her phone everywhere she goes. What would she miss out on if she didn't have it? What might she miss out on when she is immersed in it?

  • Carolina's Mami is focused on fitting in and making a good impression. Why is this more important to her than to Carolina's Papi?  Do you think girls care more about fitting in than boys do? Or is that just a stereotype?

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