MEMORIES OF SUMMER

When 13-year-old Lyric and 16-year-old Summer move from Glory Bottom, Virginia, to Flint, Michigan, in 1955, life changes for them in ways no one would have expected. Their father is seeking a better way of life for them, trying to get a job in an automobile factory, and they must adjust to the ways of the city, so different from the small town they’ve known. As Summer’s already strange behavior moves into episodes of extreme paranoia, Lyric becomes her primary caretaker, switching roles with the sister who has lovingly taken care of her since their mother died. Summer’s swift and certain descent into mental illness—her first impressions of disappearing and losing her shadow, along with attempts at self-mutilation using razors and matches—are documented in Lyric’s poignant words. Added to Lyric’s burden is her understanding that she cannot allow her new friends to know that she has this strange and difficult sister. When home care becomes impossible, heart-rending choices must be made as must acceptance of the inevitable—the state hospital. White (Belle Prater’s Boy, not reviewed, etc.) portrays Summer’s illness and Lyric’s devotion to her with her customary compassion and caring sensitivity. This is a thoughtful view into a time and place, as well as a loving commentary on the strength of family bonds. Memorable. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-34945-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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