A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Set in the Poconos, a mountain range in Pennsylvania, the main character learns about her family's history in that part of the country. As a kid who's spent her life in Southern California, discovering the different types of trees, weather patterns, customs, and personal history in this East Coast mountain community is an education.
Try new things. Be open to new experiences. Speak your mind. Bravely go forward. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Don't be afraid to keep discovering. Be honest. Build family bonds. Enjoy free time. Life without devices can be fun and creative. Don't give up. Communicate with integrity. Respect your elders, but challenge them politely. Be a stand for peaceful interactions.
Positive Role Models
The adults in this book are very human, able to show their vulnerabilities to kids and teens. The main character's father is flawed but loving, doing what he can to show his daughter how much he cares without smothering her. His wife, a stepmother to the main character, intuits her role in their patchwork family, supporting and encouraging her husband's daughter. Grandparents and aunts and uncles are quirky but firm, setting boundaries and loosening them as situations require.
There are diverse ethnic and racial representations among characters in this book, though the main character and her birth parents are White. The step-mom is a Korean American pediatrician who supports her stepdaughter unconditionally. Among the extended family at the summer camp, there are South Asian characters, a Black dad, Jewish characters, a gay couple who have a son.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Some perilous situations. A character falls, gets knocked out and breaks her arm.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Firefly Summer, by Morgan Matson, is a story about a sixth-grade girl whose mom died when she was 3. She has never met her maternal side of the family, having lived with her father and stepmom in California, while the rest of the family is in the East Coast. Themes of loss are present, but are visited tenderly, rather than heavily. Though the main character is White, her extended family members hail from diverse ethnic, racial, religious and LGBTQ+ backgrounds in this story. Characters exhibit communication, gratitude, and integrity.
Is It Any Good?
A page-turner awash in fun summer traditions of a family of likable characters, this novel invites readers to hop in a canoe and go with the flow. The Firefly Summer deals with a parent's loss topically, not allowing the acid of grief to eat away at the family humor. There are tears, there is sadness, but it's fleeting and manageable. In other words, the lessons the characters learn tend to bring them together, rather than ripping them apart.
A refreshing read in the age of information, this book invites kids to unplug, play kickball with the family, make melty s'mores, and look at the stars. This light summer mystery for middle graders is a charmer.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.