Thursday, March 28, 2019

YA ARC Review: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Caterpillar Summer
Author: Gillian McDunn
Publication: Bloomsbury Children's Books (April 2, 2019)

Description: Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she's the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She's the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn't go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another's shoes.

My Thoughts: This is a middle grade contemporary story about two kids and what they learn on their summer vacation.

Cat has just finished fifth grade. She has a younger brother called Chicken who has just finished first grade. Chicken has some issues that sounded to me like he would fit somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. He is subject to "meltdowns." He is bright and very focused on sharks. Lately, he has taken to running off. Cat spends a lot of time taking care of Chicken so that their mother can write her picture books about Caterpillar and Chicken which Cat sees as loosely based on their life.

Cat is old enough to remember the father that they lost to cancer when Chicken was a baby. She thinks of herself as the glue that holds her family together. But, as she is growing older, she is beginning to feel the restrictions that taking care of Chicken are adding to her life.

They are looking forward to a Summer vacation in Atlanta where her mother is teaching a writing seminar and they will be able to spend time with their best friends who recently moved away. Things fall apart when the friend Rishi's family has to take an emergency trip to India to take care of his grandmother.

Cat's mom decides that the kids should spend time with her parents on an island in North Carolina. Cat has never met those grandparents. Apparently their mom and their grandfather had some sort of falling out. Cat is worried about taking care of Chicken and getting to know her stranger grandparents. She is also very disappointed that she won't be able to spend as much time as she wanted with her mother.

The grandparents and the island come as a pleasant surprise. Grandma Lily is good with Chicken which allows Cat to be a child herself instead of a caregiver. Her grandfather takes a bit longer to warm up to the kids but Cat is a persistent child. Between new friends, biking and a fishing contest, Cat comes to love living on the island and becomes determined that her mother and grandfather make up their differences so that they don't lose track of these new people.

Cat is thoughtful and older than her age mainly because of the responsibility she feels for her little brother and for her mother. The story was moving and engaging and I read it in one sitting. I recommend it for thoughtful middle grade readers.

Favorite Quote:
A wave bubbled her back a step. Cat dug her toes deep in the sand. She glanced again at Chicken, who held Lily's had like it was the most normal thing in the world. Cat wanted to flop down and cry, like Chicken had at the airport. The difference was, Chicken knew someone would carry him and Cat didn't. She always picked herself up. She would have to figure out how to do that here.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

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