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Gemini Summer

Gemini Summer

4.6 3
by Iain Lawrence

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EACH MEMBER OF the River family pursues a dream. But when a tragedy befalls the Rivers, it brings a halt to everyone’s dreams. Everyone but Danny. For he finally gets his dog. And not just any old dog, but a stray that he believes embodies the spirit of someone he dearly loves. Nothing can separate them, not even after the police come to take the dog away.


EACH MEMBER OF the River family pursues a dream. But when a tragedy befalls the Rivers, it brings a halt to everyone’s dreams. Everyone but Danny. For he finally gets his dog. And not just any old dog, but a stray that he believes embodies the spirit of someone he dearly loves. Nothing can separate them, not even after the police come to take the dog away. Together Danny and his dog run off, heading toward Cape Canaveral, where some dreams end up coming true.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Lively prose, quirky characters and strong dialogue animate this moving story.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Lawrence creates a poignant family drama that will pull the heartstrings of anyone who has looked up to an older sibling or has fallen in love with a dog.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred

Publishers Weekly
Lawrence (Ghost Boy) creates a poignant family drama that will pull the heartstrings of anyone who has looked up to an older sibling or has fallen in love with a dog. The story opens in the summer of 1964 in rural Hog's Hollow and focuses on young Danny River, who longs for a dog but isn't allowed to have one. The other members of Danny's family have dreams of their own. His mother wants to write a novel. His older brother Beau wants to become an astronaut. His father, convinced that the Vietnam conflict is going to escalate into nuclear war, obsessively digs a fallout shelter in their front yard. Soon tragedy strikes: Beau falls into the dugout and dies. Danny will not be consoled until he becomes convinced that a bedraggled stray dog that arrives at the Rivers' door is his brother brought back to life. Readers will empathize with the young hero as he unsuccessfully tries to persuade his parents and others that what he believes about the dog is true. The book's sharply delineated characters and dramatic tension (much of it emanating from the villainous Creepy and Dopey Colvig) will keep pages turning, and the love among family members will be strongly felt. If some events (as when Danny meets Gus Grissom and rides in the famous astronaut's plane) appear a bit strained, they pave the way for a gratifying conclusion. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Michael Chabin
Hog's Hollow is a funny place: a little valley in the heart of modern Toronto, a backwoodsy window to another time. A dozen families live there but two are central to this story: Mean Mr. Colvig who lives with his disabled son, and the family of Old Man River, the guy who drives the septic truck. In particular the story is about Mr. River's sons: Beau, who passionately wants to become an astronaut, and Danny, who loves dogs and his older brother more than anything. Beau dies under confusing circumstances, and when a stray dog arrives soon after, Danny becomes convinced that his brother has come back as a dog—his dog. The situation is painful. How do parents still wracked with guilt and grief deal with a child's apparent denial? How does a child deal with his parent's refusal to believe the most wonderful truth imaginable? There is a masterpiece lurking there. Unfortunately, this is not a masterpiece. Instead of working through these deep and realistic issues, the story focuses on Danny's attempt to let his brother see a space launch while on an improbable ride for a boy and his dog in an Air Force jet. The plot also centers around figuring out who was, in fact, responsible for Beau's death. However, it is still a good read with well drawn characters and many poignant passages.
VOYA - Ed Goldberg
Can a boy be reincarnated as a dog? Nine-year-old Danny River, who witnesses the death of Beau, his older brother, while they played, believes that Beau has returned as a scraggly white-and-black mutt that mysteriously wanders into town. He also cannot remember how Beau died. Beau, who wanted to be an astronaut, liked the name Rocket for a dog, and Danny so names the dog. Danny looks into Rocket's eyes and sees Beau. Rocket, as would Beau, is entranced by the televised Gemini space launches in the summer of 1964. He likes what Beau liked and seems to understand everything Danny says. When Rocket bites Dopey Colvig, a mentally slow boy who bullied the River brothers, Rocket is slated to be put to sleep. Escaping, he rendevouzes with Danny at "their" fort in the woods, and the duo heads toward Cape Kennedy to enlist the aid of Beau's idol, Gus Grissom, in saving Rocket's life. The book is a story of parents losing a son; of a boy, his dog, and the depth of their bond; and of an older brother star-struck by space flight and the younger brother who idolizes him. Lawrence's descriptive language draws in the reader. Danny's adoration of his older brother and his desire for a dog are universal boyhood emotions found in this fun and scary adventure, which is both a sad story and a heartwarming tale. Who can doubt that Rocket is Beau reincarnated? This book will attract and hook middle school boys.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In the mid-1960s, Danny River and his family live on the periphery of Toronto, in out-of-the-way Hog's Hollow. The neighbors find the family somewhat odd: the father, "Old Man" River, cleans septic tanks for a living, while Mrs. River imagines herself a belle of the old South, and their older son, Beau, dreams of becoming an astronaut. As the Vietnam War looms larger, Old Man River remembers his World War II experiences and begins to dig a shelter in an effort to protect his family from the threat of missiles. The construction has disastrous consequences when the boys are playing around the site and Beau falls in. Lawrence's talent for creating captivating and rounded characters is fully realized from this point in the story as the Rivers struggle to come to terms with Beau's death. When a stray dog appears shortly after the tragedy, Danny refuses to become attached to it out of a misplaced guilt over his brother's death, but, over time, understands that loving Rocket does not lessen his love for his brother. The pace picks up nicely in the second half of the book when Danny and Rocket attempt to get to Cape Canaveral to realize Beau's dream. Adventure abounds, and the interesting detail that Lawrence weaves in about the Gemini Space Program and astronaut Gus Grissom will appeal to reluctant readers as well as more seasoned ones. This robust novel offers an affirming and hopeful look at a difficult subject.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two intertwined story threads create the fabric of this tale set in the mid-'60s, with the Vietnam War building up and Cape Canaveral offering astronauts as heroes for children in need of them. A little boy and his dog are arrested on their way to the Cape, and a family known as "the hillbillies of Hog's Hollow" lives out their dreams. Flo River sees herself as a latter-day Scarlett O'Hara and is writing a saga of the Old South. Older son Beau dreams of being an astronaut, and brother Danny only wants a dog. Old Man River builds a fallout shelter to protect his family in case the Vietnam War brings the end of everything, but doesn't realize that, instead, he is creating the scene of a great tragedy that will alter their lives. Lively prose, quirky characters and strong dialogue animate this moving story of a family and a boy, and an astronaut who sees the whole world as a miracle, with "more to it all than any one person can ever understand." (afterword, acknowledgments) (Fiction. 9-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The sheriff leaned back with his feet on the desk, watching the blond-haired boy. He was a little man with a sunburned face, with white eyebrows that looked strange on all the redness of his forehead. His cowboy boots had shiny snakeskin tops, and he sat tapping the toes together. There was a blob of blue bubble gum squashed onto one of the soles.

He watched the boy for a long time before he said, quite suddenly, "You ever heard of fingerprints, kid?"

The boy looked up.

"I could take you into the back there and print you," said the sheriff, "and I'd get what I want like that." He snapped his fingers. "I'd know your whole name and your address and everything."

The blond-haired boy had a dog beside him. He was petting the dog as he sat in front of the sheriff's desk, in a wooden chair with arms. The ceiling fan that turned slowly above him trailed shreds of cobwebs round and round.

"Now, is that the route you want to take?" said the sheriff.

"How could you know my name and address from fingerprints?" asked the boy. He looked at his fingers. "I don't think you can do that."

"Oh, you don't think I can do that," said the sheriff. "A real little Perry Mason, aren't you?"

The boy said nothing. He had said hardly a word in an hour and twenty minutes.

The sheriff sighed. He tapped the toes of his boots together. "Say, that's a nice dog you got," he said. "What do you call him, sonny?"

The blond-haired boy didn't answer.

"Aw, come on!" The sheriff swung his feet to the floor and slammed a hand on the desk. "Holy moley, what's the harm in telling me the name of your dog?"

The boy shrugged. "Maybe you should fingerprint him."

"Oh, that's funny. Yeah, that's just hysterical." The sheriff opened a drawer in his desk and took out a key. "You want to sit in the cage and tell jokes to yourself? Is that what you want?"

"I don't care," said the boy.

"Then that's what you'll do."

When the sheriff stood up the boy stood up, and the dog stood up beside him. They walked in a line through the office, past the table where the lady had sat typing till dinnertime. There was a police radio there, and a teletype machine, and a shiny kettle that reflected the whole room and the turning fan.

The dog's claws ticked on the floor. The boy wished the lady would come back, because the lady had seemed nice. She had smiled at him all the time--just smiled and typed and talked on the radio.

"You had your chance, sonny," said the sheriff. He took the boy and the dog down a flight of concrete steps, down to a corridor with a jail cell on each side. He put his key in a lock and opened a cell, sliding the bars across with a rattle of metal. There was a bed in there, and a toilet, and that was all.

"Empty out your pockets," said the sheriff.

The boy did as he was told, embarrassed by the things that came out. There was a rubber band and a bit of string, a bottle cap, an old penny, a plastic man without a head. The sheriff took it all in one hand. "In you go," he said.

The boy went into the cell. The dog followed behind him.

The sheriff drew the bars into place, then turned his key and pulled it out. "When you're ready to tell me where your home is, just holler," he said. He went up the stairs in his snakeskin boots.

The boy stretched out on the bed. His dog climbed up beside him, settling down with its head on his chest.

"Don't worry," said the boy. His hand touched the dog's neck, and his fingers buried themselves in the black fur. "We'll get to the Cape, and it'll be okay. It'll all work out when we get to the Cape."

The dog fell asleep. But the blond-haired boy lay awake, staring at the bars and the bricks. "We gotta keep going," he told the sleeping dog. " 'Cause we can't go back. That's the thing--we can't ever go home again."

He looked at the lightbulb on the ceiling. Then he squinted and tried to imagine that it was the sun, and that he was lying outside on the grass with his dog. He thought about his home.


The Rivers lived in an old gray house in a valley named Hog's Hollow. All around, in every direction, the city stretched for miles and miles. To the west was an airport, to the north an industrial park. To the south were glass towers and skyscrapers and freeways choked with cars. But down in the Hollow, it was quiet and calm.

There was a single street laid out like a worm on the valley floor, and only nine houses, all sturdy and aged like the great nests of American eagles. There were seventeen people, but only three children. There were six cats and one dog.

A narrow stream called Highland Creek flowed southward through the Hollow, creeping past the cottonwoods. Danny River liked to play there, building dams of sticks and mud. Beau, his brother, sometimes helped him smash them.

Their father's name was Charlie. But the boys and their friends talked of him as Old Man River. They imagined that he never knew, though Charlie had used the same name for his own father when he was the age of his sons.

For a living, Old Man River pumped out septic tanks. He owned a black truck with a huge tank on its back and a little cab at the front, and he wore green clothes and brown boots, and carried his keys on a jangling hoop at his waist. He could peer into a septic tank, like a wizard into a crystal ball, and see the lives of people. He could divine, in a glimpse, what they ate, and what they tried to flush away, and what colors they were painting their walls. "There are no secrets from the septic man," he'd say.

Then there was Mrs. River. It was as though she had slept through the early sixties. While other ladies were trying to dress like Jackie Kennedy, she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt. Florence was her name, but Flo she was called. Little Flo River, barely five feet high, talking sometimes like Scarlett O'Hara.

Altogether, the Rivers seemed a bit odd to the people of the Hollow, who saw that big truck parked in the yard, and the Old Man always tugging at his filthy cap, and Flo in her cotton dresses, and Danny wading barefoot through the creek. "The hillbillies of Hog's Hollow"; that's what the Rivers were called.

In the whole family, it was said, Beau was the only normal one. He did well at school, and he read books and he wondered about things like pollution and the Cold War. Only Beau, it was whispered, would ever amount to anything. "But that Danny," women would add, "oh, that Danny--isn't he a sweetheart?"

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Iain Lawrence is the author of numerous acclaimed novels for young people. He lives on Gabriola Island, British Columbia.

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Gemini Summer 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was agreat book. About a brother dying and a dog comes and the boy believes it is his brother that dies. The boy takes his dog to all the places the brother wanted to go. Lovely totally amazingly written. You have to get this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gemini Summer is equal parts Wonder Years and Twighlight Zone with a dash of Perry Mason thrown in to add flavor. It is the story of Danny Rivers, a boy who desperately wants a dog, and his older brother, Beau, who equally as passionately wants to be an astronaut. In this vintage story (circa mid 1960s), we are introduced to Old Man River, Flo River, and a cast of supporting characters from a backwater town. When Beau meets a tragic end, the family must rebuild. There are a couple of interesting plot twists that will keep readers guessing, and, true to most feel-good stories, everything works out in the end¿even the mystery of Beau¿s untimely demise is solved in a way that makes the reader feel sorry for the otherwise unsympathetic perpetrator. This is a book that middle school readers would likely enjoy. Older students will be a little more sophisticated and have a more difficult time suspending disbelief¿not at the concept of reincarnation¿but at some of the plot actions that happen along the way, particularly near the end. This would be a great book for discussing the history of the space program as well as the impact of the Vietnam War. It could be used effectively in creating dialogue about heroes and relationships.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago