School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Spending time at the beach house on the Jersey shore is filled with tradition and ritual, and 10-year-old Lexie has always loved it—until this year. It's the first summer after her parents' divorce, and everything has changed, especially when she discovers en route that she and her dad won't be alone. He neglected to tell her that his new girlfriend and her sons will be spending the entire week with them. Lexie finds herself sharing a small space with a woman who doesn't know the house rules and who sounds whiny; an adolescent boy; and an eternally grubby preschooler. She also sees a side of her father that is new to her. Lexie makes a keenly observant narrator, a believable only child who has spent much more time around adults than the average kid. Tuned in to emotions, both hers and those of the people around her, she makes a fine reporter as the two families work toward creating a new kind of normal. The characters seem remarkably real. Each one is flawed but also, by turns, warm, sympathetic, and likable. The action is largely interpersonal, yet the depiction of the ebb and flow of family life by an insider turned observer is a memorable testament to its importance in our lives. Readers will continue to think about Lexie's family and their own long after reading the last page.—Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL
"A big part of growing up is dealing with things we don't like," says 10-year-old Lexie's recently divorced mother when Lexie laments that her mother won't be part of this year's beach vacation. These words ring all the truer when Lexie's father informs her that his girlfriend and her children will be joining them. Lexie must move out of her bedroom into a closetlike space; aloof teenager Ben calls her father by his first name ("I didn't like it that he sounded like he'd known Daddy longer than I had"); and toddler Harris is a pest. Through Lexie's thoughtful, candid voice, Newbery Honor author Couloumbis (Getting Near to Baby) credibly conveys her ricocheting emotions and gradual acceptance of the new individuals in her life; Denos's loose b&w spot illustrations give readers a taste of the casual oceanside setting. Lexie's loyalty to her mother runs deep; when she learns that her father will remarry, she wonders, "Who was going to tell my mother?... I didn't want to know this if Mom didn't." Readers experiencing similar transitions should welcome this incisive yet gentle portrayal of adjusting to change. Ages 8–12. (May)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June 2011:
"As she did in Jake (BCCB 12/10), Couloumbis demonstrates her skill at writing with quiet understanding and unstudied polish for younger readers. Her ability to walk through complicated emotional dynamics in kid-accessible language...is impressive, making Lexie a perceptive narrator but not requiring her to be implausibly sophisticated."
Children's Literature - Heather Christensen
Ten-year-old Lexie is ready to spend a week at the beach, just like she has every summer for as long as she can remember. This summer, however, she is leaving her mom at home, per the divorce agreement made earlier this year. Lexie is not sure how to vacation with only one parent, but she is especially unprepared for spending it with her dad's new girlfriend and her two sons, Ben and Harris. Couloumbis never lets the narrative stray to a battle between parents. Instead, she keeps the focus on Lexie as she navigates between two conflicting worldsholding on to old traditions while being open to new ideas, demanding a space of her own but exploring the possibility of siblings, and staying loyal to her mom while hoping for new happiness for her father. Lexie's astute observations reveal a surprising maturity. She recognizes, for example, that there are awkward moments for all of them, and frequently tries to alleviate them for the others. She is still a ten-year-old though, with little girl worries. Readers will appreciate the clever and effective way she deals with her biggest worryher dad. This tender summer read will appeal to fans of Couloumbis as well authors like Jennifer Holm and Kimberly Willis Holt. Reviewer: Heather Christensen
Quietly and ever so gently, Couloumbis explores the topics of divorce and remarriage and how they affect the children involved.
Ten-year-old Lexie is off for a week at her family's beach cottage on the Jersey Shore, reluctantly leaving her mother behind for the first time since her parents' recent divorce. What she doesn't expect is that her father has invited his new "friend," Vicky, and her two children, 14-year-old Ben and 3-year-old always-sticky Harris, who makes constant truck noises, endearingly preferring to be called Mack—for the truck, of course. Vicky's Mary Tyler Moore smile, perpetually pasted on her face, makes her real feelings hard to read, and Ben's a bit prickly. What's worse is that Lexie didn't see it coming; her father, afraid of her reaction, hadn't told her this relationship is serious. The cottage is small, so all of them quite believably get in each other's way while exploring what this new family might feel like. Lexie's fears—becoming a guest in her father's house and that her mother will be deeply hurt—are valid, but her worries are eased by the loving relationships surrounding her. Convincing characters and solid dialogue enhance the credible plot, which is more focused on feelings than action.
This tender, realistic tale might go a long way toward soothing the doubts of many children who are dealing with similarly trying situations. (Fiction. 9-12)