Summer of the Gypsy Moths

While Stella’s flighty mother is drifting from one town to the next, Stella is sent to live with her Great Aunt Louise on Cape Cod. Even though Louise is kind of grumpy sometimes, Stella likes living with her. Louise keeps things nice, neat, and orderly, something Stella’s mom never did. Stella has high hopes that her mom will eventually settle in Cape Cod with her and Louise, and they’ll be a happy family.

One obstacle to that “happy family” scenario–along with Stella’s mom’s lack of reliability–may be Angel, a foster kid who’s also living with Louise. Angel and Stella are like oil and water, and they seem to work best when they stay far away from each other. Fate, however, seems to have other ideas.

When the girls discover that Louise has suddenly passed away, they must work together to decide what to do. Neither girl wants to go into group homes or anything like that, so they do the only thing they can think of. They keep Louise’s death a secret. They make up plausible excuses for Louise’s absence. They take care of the vacation cottages that Louise was responsible for. Stella takes comfort in cleaning, gardening, and keeping Louise’s prize blueberries alive. Both girls do what they must to survive as long as they can. It’s not easy, but Stella and Angel think they have no other choice. They must learn to rely on each other.

Both Stella and Angel have taken on more than any two kids should, but their predicament is bringing them closer together. They’re communicating, working together, and learning more about each other. They each have their own ways of coping with this horrible situation, and they’re doing the best they can.

But what happens when the secrecy finally becomes too much? When the truth is revealed, what will it mean for Stella, Angel, and their future? Will they find the sense of family and home they so desperately need? Will someone finally take care of them? Find out when you read Summer of the Gypsy Moths, a 14-15 South Carolina Book Award nominee by Sara Pennypacker!

Pie

Pie by Sarah Weeks is a nominee for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. This was a really fast, easy read, but it pulled at my heartstrings a little bit…and it made me really want some pie. It also contained a bit of a mystery that readers will be as eager to unravel as Alice, our totally relatable main character, was. Technically, Pie is a work of historical fiction (it takes place in 1955), but it doesn’t really read that way. In my opinion, this book is totally accessible to all readers, and almost everyone will be able to find something they can identify with.

Alice Anderson’s world is turned upside down when her beloved aunt, Polly Portman, passes away suddenly. To everyone else, Polly was the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, but Alice thought of Polly as her best friend in the entire world. She doesn’t really care how much everyone else missed Polly’s pies. Alice simply misses her Aunt Polly…until something happens that puts Alice–and her aunt’s cat Lardo–into the center of a mystery.

It seems that Aunt Polly’s highly coveted pie crust recipe was left to Lardo in her will. And Lardo was left in the care of Alice. Why would Polly–a very smart and not at all crazy woman–leave her prized recipe to her cat? How did she even do this? Of course, everyone is curious about this, but Alice is starting to think that someone is curious enough to commit crimes–like burglary and catnapping–to somehow get greedy hands on this recipe that her aunt valued so much.

Alice tries to take her concerns to her parents and even the police, but no one (except her friend Charlie) believes her. So Alice and Charlie do some investigating of their own. Suspects abound, especially since everyone seems determined to take Aunt Polly’s place as the Pie Queen of Ipswitch. It’s up to Alice to figure out who the real culprit is. Will she be able to solve the mystery? And what will she learn about herself along the way? Read Pie, a sweet mystery by Sarah Weeks, to find out!

With each chapter starting with a delectable pie recipe, I plan to really market this book to my students who frequently check out cookbooks. (A lot of kids are into cooking. Who knew?) This is a really sweet (pun intended) book that, yes, does contain a bit of a mystery, but also explores the bonds of family and friendship. It also teaches an important lesson about using one’s own talents and not worrying about what someone else may be good at or the recognition they may receive (a message that even I needed).