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Painting the Rainbow

Painting the Rainbow

by Amy Gordon

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Thirteen-year-old Holly and her cousin Ivy have always been close; but this summer, 1965, at the annual month-long reunion at their grandparents' lake house, the girls seem to be growing apart. Although they spend hours together painting an old rowboat the colors of the rainbow, they don't talk about things that are important . . . until they accidentally discover


Thirteen-year-old Holly and her cousin Ivy have always been close; but this summer, 1965, at the annual month-long reunion at their grandparents' lake house, the girls seem to be growing apart. Although they spend hours together painting an old rowboat the colors of the rainbow, they don't talk about things that are important . . . until they accidentally discover hidden family letters and drawings dating back to World War II. Uncovering the mystery of a ghost-like boy named Kiyo leads the girls to the many subjects no Greenwood adult will discuss, such as their uncle Jesse and his death during the war. In this insightful and expressive novel about complicated family dynamics, two girls show their elders that with honesty, courage, and empathy even old wounds can be healed.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in New Hampshire in the summer of 1965, Gordon's (The Shadow Collector's Apprentice) historical coming-of-age novel unfolds through the alternating perspectives of 13-year-old cousins Holly and Ivy. The Greenwoods gather every year at Otter Lake, but ever since a blowup the previous Thanksgiving, multiple tensions are disrupting the family. Holly and Ivy usually have a close bond and even share a secret language, but they are drifting apart. “Every once in awhile there was a flicker of our old friendship, but mostly something kept getting in the way," says Holly. Ivy is serious about music and stressed out by her quarreling parents and her politically active college-age brother, while Holly has boys on her mind. As they work together to fix an old rowboat, bits of family history are unleashed, involving Ivy's father's late twin brother and a Japanese boy named Kiyoshi. Beyond the girls' insights into events and changes that feel outside their control, Gordon's story will leave readers thinking about the politics and chaos of relationships and the effect war has on individuals. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Ivy’s Uncle Jesse died during World War II. But no one in the family will talk about it. In fact, they do not even want to mention his name. Ivy and her thirteen-year-old best friend and cousin, Holly, try to solve the mystery during the family’s annual vacation at their grandparents’ house at Otter Lake. As they discover clues and work on repainting Jesse’s boat, the Rainbow, unsettling theories emerge. Was Jesse killed in a boating accident? Did a Japanese boy have something to do with it? As the secrets begin to come to light, old family sorrows and tragedies are revisited. Yet when the truth is finally exposed, it comes as a surprise to all. The theme of this book is war, and the complexities and troubles that war brings to the lives of all those who are touched by it. Subjects such as the forced movement of Japanese-Americans to relocation centers and the stigma attached to conscientious objectors are addressed. The story, which takes place in 1965, also touches on the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Family matters, involving sibling rivalries, warring spouses, and rebellious teenagers, take center stage. There is a large cast of characters in this book; a family tree is provided at the front to help readers keep track of them. Nevertheless, the numerous characters and the myriad subplots make for superficial treatment of some important issues. Readers may also wonder how so many important clues seem to turn up at just the right time and place. The story is told by Holly, with the aid of diary entries by Ivy. Boating enthusiasts will enjoy the references to sailing. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In August 1965, 13-year-old cousins Holly and Ivy are once again together while their extended family gathers for the annual month-long reunion at their grandparents' summer home on Otter Lake, New Hampshire. But tensions run high as Ivy's parents constantly argue; her mother investigates boarding schools for her and her brother Sam; and her volatile father, Jake, clashes repeatedly with her eldest brother, Randy, over his views on civil rights and Vietnam. Holly is hurt and bewildered by Ivy's moodiness and withdraws into her music. Told in the girls' alternating voices, the story skillfully combines complex family dynamics, adolescent angst, and a good mystery, as clues emerge relating to the death, many years before, of Jake's twin brother, Jesse. The girls stumble upon old letters and memorabilia that reveal surprising facts about their uncle's death and its relationship to the plight of Japanese Americans during World War II. Effective integration of setting, details of the time periods, and nuances of personality enhance the plot. A family tree and a time line are provided, as well as an author's note describing her research and inspiration for this multilayered historical novel.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Two young cousins try to recapture the feeling of summertime fun during a fraught vacation at their family's lake house, a summer overshadowed by the mystery of their uncle's long-ago death. Cousins Holly Swanson and Ivy Greenwood have very different personalities, but that has never mattered before. During the summers, they've always been inseparable. But this summer of 1965, with Ivy's parents fighting more than ever and Holly showing interest in local boys, they can't seem to find any common ground. It doesn't help that tensions are running high among other family members. Uncle Jesse may have died many years ago, but guilt, sadness and shame still surround the accident. Mixing diary entries and letters into the narrative, Gordon delivers a sweet albeit convenient story about familial rupture and healing. The cast of characters is well-imagined, and the plot is infused with the inevitable repercussions of history, both immediate and those of a more global nature. However, events are repeatedly too advantageous to be ultimately satisfying. Hidden diaries, letters and pictures are discovered with alarming regularity. Perhaps acknowledging this narrative ease, the publisher recommends this book for ages 8-12, but the girls' dawning understanding of the complex world of adulthood pushes it a little older. A story about a tumultuous family that lacks a certain element of hardship needed to make a book truly gripping. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
760L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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Meet the Author

Amy Gordon's The Gorillas of Gill Park appeared on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List and was a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year. Her most recent novel, The Shadow Collector's Apprentice, which School Library Journal called "well thought out" and "filled with rustic charm," was nominated for the William Allen White Award. Amy Gordon lives in western Massachusetts.

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