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Cold in Summer

Cold in Summer

4.6 3
by Tracy Barrett

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The new girl in town meets a mysterious old-fashioned girl who can't seem to find her way home.

The girl didn't say anything. Her face held no expression.
Ariadne shivered. It was cool in the shade, and her hair was still wet.
"Hello," Ariadne said. No answer. "Um--I was just taking a walk. Is this your property?" Still nothing. She


The new girl in town meets a mysterious old-fashioned girl who can't seem to find her way home.

The girl didn't say anything. Her face held no expression.
Ariadne shivered. It was cool in the shade, and her hair was still wet.
"Hello," Ariadne said. No answer. "Um--I was just taking a walk. Is this your property?" Still nothing. She took a step toward the girl and stumbled on a fallen branch. She caught her balance and looked back at the tree, but no one was there.
The girl had vanished.

It's bad enough that Ariadne's family just moved to a tiny boring town in the middle of nowhere. But worst of all is that she's so far away from her best friend. The kids in Dobbin seem nice enough, but none of them really understands how lost and unhappy Ariadne feels.

None, that is, but May Butler. She's an odd, quiet person who wears the strangest old-fashioned clothes and has a spooky habit of appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye. Despite their differences, there is a bond between the two girls. May, too, knows what it's like to feel lost.

Cold in Summer is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Compelling. A genuine ghost story...that will draw readers eerily in.”—Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barrett (Anna of Byzantium) places a supernatural twist on a well-worn story line about an unwelcome move. Seventh-grader Ariadne, miserable at being uprooted from Florida when her professor mother gets a job in a small Tennessee college town, is daydreaming about running away when she encounters a silent girl in old-fashioned clothes. Eventually she and the girl, May Butler, become friends, but mysteries surface. Why does May so quickly appear and disappear? Why doesn't anyone else see May? Readers will outpace the heroine in her slow piecing together of May's identity (she is the ghost of a 19th-century local girl) and May's request, "You have to look for me and help me go home." Given May's benevolence (she appears to girls or boys needing help), the ghost story isn't especially frightening, and those familiar with the genre may find Barrett's clues too obvious to generate much momentum. Instead, the tension arises from Ariadne's investigation of the colorful local history and her attempt to carry out May's wishes. If somewhat tame, the story offers enough teasers to keep the audience going until the action-packed climax. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
For 12-year-old Ariadne, the summer before seventh grade just stinks. Her family has moved from suburban Florida to Dobbin, Tennessee, where her father has taken a teaching position at the local university. Her best friend Sarah seems a million miles away, and Dobbin's only claim to fame is Cedar Point Lake, created when a town was flooded to provide water for an electricity-generating dam. Knowing she has to adjust, Ariadne tries to make friends, even with the strange girl named May she meets in the woods. However, no one else seems to know May, and before long, Ariadne starts hearing stories about other people in town who have seen a girl dressed in old-fashioned clothes in the woods. As Ariadne investigates the town's history for her first school project, she discovers that May had lived over a century ago, and has appeared to children throughout the decades, asking them to help "find her." Ariadne's research, with help from May's clues and those of two other residents to whom she has appeared, leads her to the edge of the lake where a hidden cave holds many secrets. May not only helps Ariadne solve a mystery, but also helps her find herself. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Henry Holt, 203p.,
— Michele Winship
The author of Anna of Byzantium (Delacorte, 1999/VOYA October 1999) takes a classic new-kid-in-town story and gives it a ghostly twist in her latest novel. During the summer before seventh grade, Ariadne moves with her family from Florida to a small college town in Tennessee. Their new house overlooks a lake that was created around fifty years ago by flooding in the valley. When the lake formed, almost everything was left where it was except the cemetery, which was dug up and relocated near the new church. While walking in the woods near the lake one afternoon, homesick Ariadne decides that she will run away back to Florida. Just as she makes her plans, an odd-looking girl about Ariadne's age appears. Ariadne later discovers that May Butler is the ghost of a girl who died at the age of twelve before the flooding but whose body was never found. May has spent the last several decades helping people in need, as her mother had always taught her. Now May is in need: She wants Ariadne to find her body and return it to where the rest of her family is buried so that she can finally rest. Ariadne's loneliness, her adjustment to small-town life, and her suspicions of the new friends she makes at school and in the neighborhood are right on the mark. Barrett crafts a fine ghost story that will appeal to those who like mystery and intrigue as well as a good regional story. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Henry Holt, 208p,
— Cynthia Grady
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Ariadne's family has just moved from Florida to tiny Dobbin, TN, and she hates it. She misses the ocean, her old school, and her best friend, Sarah. One day, after swimming in Cedar Point Lake, she meets an odd girl in old-fashioned clothing, whose name she later discovers is May. In the course of doing research for a class project on the history of her new town, Ariadne learns of a local legend concerning a child named May Butler who mysteriously disappeared one day in the 1850s, and she decides to discover the truth about the strange girl who drifts in and out of her life with no explanation. The story is rather predictable, and readers figure out what is going on long before Ariadne does. Also, some of the clues that lead her to solve the mystery fall into place a little too easily, with many of the supporting characters seeming to exist merely as vehicles for plot twists. The mutual concern that Ariadne and May have for one another, however, is affecting, and fans of ghost stories should enjoy this light, easy read.-Alison Ching, North Garland High School, Garland, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
No way does Ariadne want to spend her seventh-grade year in a hick town in Tennessee just because her mom got a job at the university there. She’s lonesome, missing her best friend back in Florida. When she meets a girl with a long braid and wearing a faded blue dress and brown boots alone in the woods, who says she lives where "it’s cold in summer and warm in winter," Ariadne feels strangely drawn to her. Intrigued by the murky 100-foot-deep lake where her family lives, Adriadne’s social-studies project on the creation of the lake and the dead town underneath it becomes the eddy that swirls the mysterious circumstances together. Is the girl, May Butler, a ghost? How can Ariadne take her home? Plenty of foreshadowing and obvious clues point to the answers, but it’s not where the plot goes, rather how it gets there that makes the story compelling. A genuine ghost story without coincidental explanations that will draw readers eerily in. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Cold in Summer

By Tracy Barrett

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2003 Tracy Barrett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62779-672-9


Ariadne flipped over, treading water, and tried to look down through the darkness. Her wet hair flopped over her eyes, and she couldn't spare a hand to push it back. It didn't matter. She couldn't even see her toes. What if she were right over an old barn? Could she cut herself on a thresher or a reaper? She had no idea what threshers and reapers were, but last year her sixth-grade social-studies book had said they were used on farms. They would probably still have sharp edges, even if they were covered with rust by now. The thought made her shudder, and she bent her legs until her treading knees nearly broke the surface.

Hector was facedown a few feet away, his arms wrapped around a boat cushion. His dark hair floated around his head like seaweed, and his back was already starting to turn pink. Ariadne swam over and grabbed a corner of the cushion.

"Hey!" Hector said, and loosened his grip. "You trying to drown me?"

"Let me hold on a second," said Ariadne. "I'm sinking."

"Fresh water is less buoyant than salt water," he said.

"I know, I know — spare me the science lecture," she said. It was annoying to hear her little brother use a word like buoyant. "Up to the Bs already?" She tossed her head to get her hair out of her eyes, and a strand caught in her mouth. She spat it out, grimacing at the muddy taste. "Where's Mom?" she asked.

"Back on shore with Dad." Hector jerked his head in their direction. "Now let go of my cushion. Get your own if you can't dog-paddle that far." Stung, Ariadne let go and swam with her best crawl toward the shore. She looked back to see if Hector was impressed with her form, but he had hugged the cushion to his chest again and was staring down, down into the depths, as though he could see something in the murk below his yellow swim trunks.

Ariadne walked gingerly over the muddy bank. It was bad enough when it squished through her toes, but it was even worse when there was a hard nubbin that could be anything. A beetle. A piece of a beer bottle. Part of a dead animal. She shuddered.

"That mud is so gross," she said when she finally reached the grassy area where her parents were setting out the picnic lunch. The dark green trees, already starting to get fall-brown, looked odd growing so near the water, and it was strange to feel cool grass underfoot instead of hot sand. She took a handful of chips.

"Hey, stop that," her father said. "Wait until everyone gets a shot at the food before you eat it all up, Addy. And if the mud bothers you, wear your water shoes."

"Whoever heard of swimming in shoes?" Ariadne grumbled. "If we were still in Florida, we'd have nice clean sand instead of this goo. And we'd have salt water to keep us afloat. And we'd have Sarah down the street."

"And we'd have a mountain of bills," her mother said, "and we wouldn't have a beautiful lake to go swimming in or lots of new kids to meet once school starts next week. Count your blessings."

I can't count that low, thought Ariadne, but she kept her mouth shut.

"Tell Hector it's lunchtime," her father said, and this time Ariadne put on her water shoes before going down to the edge of the lake.

"Heck!" she called. "Come eat!" And she turned back without waiting to find out if he had heard. If he hadn't, there would be more for her. Lately, she couldn't eat enough at one sitting to keep from feeling starved before the next meal.

But by the sound of splashing behind her, he had heard and was heading in. He caught up with her at the picnic blanket and dried off with one of their Florida beach towels, the one with the blue seahorse on it that had always been his special favorite. He seemed to have forgotten the beach, though, and was talking about the lake. The dirty, brown lake with no surf and no dolphins.

"Did you know that if you hold real still, little fishes come up and nibble you all over?" he asked.

"Yeah, I knew that already," said Ariadne. "It's gross."

"It's not gross, it's cool!" Hector said. "They wiggle around and look like puppies wagging their tails. I wonder what they're eating off your skin?"

"Salt, I suppose," their mother said.

"See?" said Ariadne. "Even the fish know that salt water is better. I wonder who picked them up out of the ocean and dumped them here in this stinky lake."

"Oh, stop complaining," Hector said. "The lake doesn't stink. It smells like a lake is supposed to smell, just like Zephyr smells like a dog is supposed to smell."

"Zephyr stinks," Ariadne said.

"Enough of that, Ariadne Louise," her father broke in. "Quit grousing and say something nice."

Ariadne thought as she chewed and swallowed. "Good deviled eggs," she said finally. "You used the same kind of mayo that we had at home."

Her mother groaned and flopped onto her back on the blanket. "This is home for now, my precious. If the college hadn't offered me a job, we might have wound up in Nebraska, or South Dakota, or someplace even farther from home —" She stopped as Ariadne grinned at her. "All right, you caught me. Even farther from Florida than where we are right now. Tennessee is pretty close, and Sarah's coming for Thanksgiving. That is, if you still want her. You'll probably have tons of new friends by then and won't want to see her."

"Oh, sure," Ariadne said. Not want to see Sarah? Her best friend since preschool, who'd spent the night so many times that she had her own toothbrush and sleeping bag at Ariadne's house? Really.

"You never know," Hector said. "Sarah might have a new best friend by then."

"She will not!" Ariadne said. "Sarah and I will always be best friends, and even if I have to spend the next six years here, we'll be roommates in college and get jobs together after we graduate."

"Oh, really?" her father said. "And where are you planning on going to college?"

"Florida State," said Ariadne, and when the others laughed, she threw her cookie in the mud and stomped off into the bushes. They were so thick that within seconds she was out of sight of the lake and of her family.

Honestly, she thought. If they liked it so much, they could stay. But she wouldn't. She would e-mail Sarah and beg her to ask her parents once more if Ariadne could move in with them, at least for the rest of middle school. They were finally going to be seventh-graders. They'd have lockers and get to take Spanish or German or French and go to the seventh-grade dance at Halloween. And they were going to be in the same homeroom this year, with Mr. McGerr. Just my luck to get the coolest teacher in the school and then have to leave, she thought as she blinked back tears. This stinks.

Why anyone would want to live someplace where they would cover whole towns with water just to make a stupid lake was beyond her. Her father had explained that the dam generated electricity for the entire region and was powered by the water in Cedar Point Lake, but the idea still gave her the creeps. It was like the story her mother had told her about Atlantis, that Greek island-city that sank into the ocean, taking a whole civilization with it. Not that Dobbin, Tennessee, probably had much civilization to lose, but still, a town was under them whenever they went swimming, under the jet-skis — even under those little brown fish. Yuck, there was probably a cemetery under the water too, and who knew what the fish had been dining on before their little mouths nibbled on her?

Ariadne had gone deep into the underbrush, pulling herself up the steep slope by holding on to bushes and small trees. There was nothing to worry about here, no matter how far she strayed. There weren't any Florida alligators, and there was no chance of getting lost when all she had to do was head back downhill to find herself at the lake again.

So why did it feel creepy? Maybe because it was suddenly so still. She realized that she didn't hear any birds, and the rustle of squirrels or possums or whatever it was had stopped abruptly. She was about to turn back when she saw something that made her jump.

Peering out from behind a tree was a girl of about her age. Her pale brown hair was pulled back into a long braid that flopped over one shoulder as she leaned in Ariadne's direction. She wore a faded blue dress and sturdy brown boots. What dorky clothes, thought Ariadne. But maybe that's what kids here wear on their summer vacation.

The girl didn't say anything. She looked at Ariadne without expression. Why didn't the girl speak?

Ariadne shivered. It was cool in the shade, and her hair was still wet.

"Hello," Ariadne said. No answer. "Um — I was just taking a walk. Is this your property?" Still nothing. She took a step toward the girl and stumbled on a fallen branch. She caught her balance and looked back to the tree, but no one was there.

The girl had vanished.


The next afternoon Ariadne was lying on her stomach in her room, channel-surfing. Thank goodness the people they were renting from managed to get cable out here in the boonies, and thank goodness her parents had agreed to keep paying for it. She had to admit that this house was pretty nice, and not just because she'd gotten her own TV. There was also a big screened-in porch, and her cozy room had both a slanted ceiling and a skylight.

Someone knocked at the front door, and Zephyr instantly started barking. She heard the screen door creak, and then her mother said something inaudible. Ariadne hadn't heard a car drive up, so it must be one of the neighbors. The Parrishes next door were friendly, despite what she had heard about country people keeping to themselves. They had even taken Hector out on their jet-ski, and he hadn't shut up about it since.

"Ariadne!" her mother called up the stairs. "It's for you!"

For her? But she didn't know anybody here.

"Who is it?" she called back, pressing the mute button.

"Come down and see," her mother answered.

The screen door squeaked again as she pushed it open. Three girls about her age were sitting on bikes in the front yard. One of them was patting Zephyr, who was wagging his whole fat body along with his tail. Unlike the girl she had seen at the lake, they all wore normal clothes: shorts, T-shirts, beat-up running shoes. They had on bike helmets, and one was wearing a mini-backpack.

"You want to go to town and get some ice cream?" one of them asked. Ariadne looked back at her mother, standing on the porch. She nodded encouragingly.

"Okay," she said. "Just let me get my bike and some money."

The girl with the backpack said, "You don't need any money — my mom gave me enough for all of us," and Ariadne thought, That's why you're asking me; your mom bribed you to invite the new girl when you went to get ice cream.

But she didn't say anything, just got her bike. As she fastened the strap of her helmet, she asked, "Which way is town?"

"Uphill," said the girl with the money. "But that means on the way home we get to coast the whole way." And they took off. Zephyr followed them for a little while, then turned back.

Ariadne, accustomed to biking where a rise of ten feet was considered a big hill, was worn out by the time they pulled up in front of a small ice-cream parlor on the town square. It was squeezed between a diner and a dusty-looking general store. There was a small park across the narrow street, and on the opposite side of it stood a gas station and two churches. On the third edge of the park were a small office building and a white house with a sign saying DOBBIN PUBLIC LIBRARY over the door. On the fourth side was a cemetery filled with small headstones.

The girls propped their bikes against the big glass window with FENDER'S ICE CREAM lettered across the front without bothering to lock them (Ariadne noticed that they didn't even have bike locks) and went in. She stood back while the others debated the flavors, and when it was her turn ordered a double scoop of Rocky Road in a sugar cone.

The gray-haired woman working behind the counter looked sour as she slapped ice cream into the cones. Her glance met Ariadne's when she handed the Rocky Road cone over the counter. Her flat blue eyes were expressionless.

Ariadne followed the girls out the door, and together they walked across the street to the little park. Two of the girls perched on a picnic table while the third sat on the bench. Wordlessly, Ariadne took a seat on the bench too. With her helmet off, the girl next to her turned out to be a freckled redhead, like one of the girls sitting on the table. The third, who had brought the money, was a blonde, with a pug nose and a wide mouth.

"My mom said you just moved here from Florida," said the blonde. Ariadne nodded, concentrating on catching a drip. The girl groaned and said, "You're so lucky! I've just been to Florida once and I was only three so I don't remember it. But next year —" the taller of the two redheads joined in, "— eighth-grade trip to Disney World!" And they gave each other high fives.

"I bet you know Disney World like we know this town," said the shorter redhead enviously.

"Actually, I've never been," Ariadne said. These were her first words to the girls since they had left the house, and her own voice sounded loud to her.

"You're kidding!" said the blonde. "If I lived in Florida, I'd be there every weekend!"

"We didn't live too close to it," Ariadne said, "and every time we planned to go, something would come up."

The others nodded. "Just like parents to get you all excited about something and then discover they're too busy," the taller redhead said. "I'm Ashley, by the way, and we're in the same class next year."

"How do you know whose class I'm going to be in?" Ariadne asked.

"There's only one seventh grade at Polk Middle School," Ashley explained. "I saw your name on the list, but I don't know how to say it."

"A-ree-AD-nee," she answered. "And my brother is named Hector. He's going to Dobbin Elementary."

"Ooh, he could be your new boyfriend, Jessica," Ashley said.

"Shut up," the other redhead said, but without anger, as though she were used to being teased by her sister.

"And I'm Caroline Kennedy," said the blonde. "No relation to the famous one. I'll be in seventh grade too. Where did you get those names from?"

Jessica, Ashley, and Caroline — nice, normal names, thought Ariadne as she launched into the explanation of where she and Hector got their names from for the millionth time.

"My mother's a professor of classical studies," she said. "You know, like Greek and Latin?" The others nodded. "So she named us after characters from Greek myths. It could have been worse. She wanted to name me Penelope, but my father said everybody would call me Cantaloupe, so she changed it to Ariadne."

"Is your dad a professor too?" Caroline asked.

"No," Ariadne said. "He's trying to write screenplays for movies. I mean, he's writing them, and trying to sell them to Hollywood."

"My mom's at the college," Caroline said. "She works in the bookstore."

"And our dad teaches botany," Jessica said.

Ariadne swallowed the little point of her cone and said, "Is the ice-cream lady always that grumpy?"

"Oh, that's Mrs. Harrison. She's usually much worse!" Caroline said. "At least she didn't fuss at us today. Sometimes she yells that we're letting out the air-conditioning, or that we touched the glass over the ice cream and got it smudgy."

"Or that we're taking too long to make up our minds, or that we tracked in mud," Ashley chimed in. "She's really cranky."

"And she's crazy," Jessica said.

"Crazy?" Ariadne said.

"Yup," said Ashley. "She sees things."

Since they were sitting in broad daylight in the middle of an ordinary town, it wasn't too scary to be talking about a crazy lady who had just sold them ice cream. At least it wasn't the kind of crazy that meant Mrs. Harrison came after people with a chainsaw, or anything. As long as there was nothing wrong with the ice cream, but the others had obviously eaten lots of cones there and didn't seem worried.

"What kind of things does she see?" Ariadne asked.

"She doesn't talk about it," Caroline said, "and anyway I think she's over it. I heard she saw things when she was younger but doesn't anymore."

"Has she always lived here?" Ariadne asked.

"Almost," said Caroline, who seemed to be the expert. "She lived in the valley until they flooded it, and then she moved up here to town. When she got married, she moved away and came back after she got divorced and her parents died. My grandmother says her parents were just like her — cranky."

"Were they crazy too?" Ariadne asked.

"Not that I ever heard," Caroline said.

"But what kind of things did she see?" Ariadne persisted.

Caroline said, "My grandma says that when Mrs. Harrison was our age, she said she saw people in the woods when there wasn't anybody there. My grandma should know. They went to school together after the dam was built and the kids in the valley had to come up here on the ridge."

"And she talks to herself all the time," Jessica said. "She's always mumbling, even when there are people in there getting ice cream."


Excerpted from Cold in Summer by Tracy Barrett. Copyright © 2003 Tracy Barrett. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Tracy Barrett is the award-winning author of several books for young readers, including the Sherlock Files books, King of Ithaka, Cold in Summer and Anne of Byzantium. Her books have been named an ALA Best Book for young adults, a Bank Street best children’s book of the year, and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, among many other honors. She is a professor of Italian language and civilization at Vanderbilt University and lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Cold in Summer 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is full of lonelyness, humor, caring, and feeling. It is all about- never mind read it and find out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually don't like books where the character is younger than myself or doesn't have any romance but I think it made it a stronger, better story! I thought that I had it figured out but it ended up way different! I loved it!