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The Summer I Learned to Fly

The Summer I Learned to Fly

4.8 10
by Dana Reinhardt

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Drew's a bit of a loner. She has a pet rat, her dead dad's Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom's cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It's the summer before eighth grade and Drew's days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the


Drew's a bit of a loner. She has a pet rat, her dead dad's Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom's cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It's the summer before eighth grade and Drew's days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the alley named Emmett Crane. Who he is, why he's there, where the cut on his cheek came from, and his bottomless knowledge of rats are all mysteries Drew will untangle as they are drawn closer together, and Drew enters into the first true friendship, and adventure, of her life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Reinhardt (The Things a Brother Knows) traces the friendship formed between two lonely adolescents in this atmospheric novel set in California during the 1980s. Thirteen-year-old Drew first runs into Emmett, a scraggly, slightly older boy, when she is looking for her lost pet rat in the alley behind her mother's gourmet cheese shop. Though reluctant to talk about himself, Emmett draws Drew into his world, eventually confiding his secret dream: to find a legendary spring with healing powers. Betraying her mother's trust by running away from home, Drew accompanies Emmett on an eye-opening journey to find the magic waters, during which she learns some bittersweet lessons about love and sacrifice. Laced with mystery and fascinating details about Drew's chief interests—rats and cheese—this quiet novel invites readers to share in its heroine's deepest yearnings, changing moods, and difficult realizations. Strong imagery, such as a description of the Golden Gate Bridge—"First faint and blurred like a watercolor painting, and then strong and vibrant, an electric red against a pale blue sky"—will stay with readers. Ages 12–up. (July)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, May 23, 2011:
"Laced with mystery and fascinating details about Drew's chief interests—rats and cheese—this quiet novel invites readers to share in its heroine's deepest yearnings, changing moods, and difficult realizations. Strong imagery...will stay with readers."

Children's Literature - Sue Poduska
Although the heroine of this story is only thirteen, the themes of teen angst, young love, and breaking away are very much young adult. Drew and her mother are struggling to make ends meet while running a newly opened gourmet cheese shop, and Drew is coming to the realization that her mother has problems, too. Meanwhile, her crush on Nick, her mother's twenty-year-old helper and a part-time surfer, is not working out the way Drew had hoped. She is beginning to see the relationship as the impossible situation it is. She takes her pet rat everywhere, including the cheese shop. When she meets a mysterious boy, Emmett, seemingly living off the leftovers from the cheese shop, her world suddenly spins out of control. She must help Emmett, come to terms with her mother, and somehow get to know her dead father. The story is compelling, with plenty of twists and great characters. Even the minor characters have a lot of personality. Reviewer: Sue Poduska
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Eighteen-year-old Drew Robin Solo, or Birdie, as her family calls her, tells about the year she was 13, when her widowed mother opened The Cheese Shop. Birdie works there (unpaid) with her mother; Swoozie; and Nick, a surfer who has a way with both artisanal pasta and all machines. Once school ends, she plans on working full-time until her mother tells her that, even if she were not too young to employ, she just could not afford her because the shop is barely making money. Birdie still comes in, bringing along her pet rat on the sly, largely to spend time with Nick, who makes her feel "fluttery" even though he's college age. At the end of most days, she takes the bread, pasta, and cheeses that are too old to sell and puts them out by the Dumpster. It's there that she meets a boy slightly older than she, who introduces himself as Emmett Crane. Over the next couple of weeks she and Emmett get to know each other. She also learns that her mother is dating someone, and that she wants to make her own "Book of Lists" like the one she found belonging to her dad. Ever steady, reliable Birdie slowly comes to realize that Emmett is a runaway. He finally admits it, but it is because he is in search of a miracle to help his family. He wants to find a hot spring that was part of a Native American legend his father read to him. He feels that if he jumps into this spring his father will come back to the family and his younger brother will get well. Birdie agrees to help him with his quest and to leave her comfort zone in the process. Reinhardt has written another book that will resonate with any readers learning to spread their wings and fly.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
Kirkus Reviews

In the lazy days of summer in a California coastal town, Drew works at her mom's struggling cheese shop and indulges her crush on an older co-worker, until she discovers Emmett and becomes involved in his very different world.

Drew and her mother have been a team for all the years since her father died, with pet rat Humboldt Fog as a companion. Thirteen-year-old Drew finally begins to separate and grow into her own person in this crucial summer. When mysterious, romantic Emmett appears, Drew finds herself holding her breath till she sees him and summing up her day as just "fine" to her mother. Emmett is on his own, and Drew (or Birdie, as her mother calls her) finds herself questioning her values and making new friends as she grows closer to him. This is not drastic or world-changing but a natural emergence of independence. Drew's journey into self-knowledge unfolds in a lucid voice that is thoughtful and entertaining without being showy. Emmett's history is painful but not unlikely or shocking.There is a hint throughout of being a step removed that balances the immediacy of the events being related and the power of hindsight.Drew and Emmett's ultimate quest for a miracle and the unquestioning belief in the magic needed for it adds just that touch of innocence and naiveté that is needed to make the ending poignant.

Quiet yet immensely appealing.(Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Grand Opening

For some people it's the smell of sunblock. Or pine trees. A burnt marshmallow from the embers of a campfire. Maybe your grandfather's aftershave.

Everyone has that smell. The particular scent that transports you, even if only for an instant, to the long-ago, faraway land of your childhood.

For me, it's the smell of Limburger. Or Camembert. Sometimes Stilton. Take your pick from the stinkiest of cheeses.

My mother's shop was on Euclid Avenue. But believe me, it's not the Euclid Avenue you know now, with thirty-dollar manicures and stores that sell nothing but fancy soap in paisley paper.

Back then Euclid Avenue was the kind of place where a kid like me could find something to spend fifty cents on. And I did, almost every day, at Fireside Liquor. It was the summer of 1986 and I wasn't buying alcohol; I was only thirteen. But fifty cents bought me a Good News: peanuts, caramel, chocolate. The red label declared it Hawaii's Favorite candy bar, an odd claim, but one that made it seem, and even taste, exotic.

I'd never been to Hawaii. I'd never been anywhere to speak of. We didn't have much money, only what we got from Dad's life insurance policy, and what we did have had all gone into the Cheese Shop.

That's what it was called. The Cheese Shop. No stroke of brilliance in the creativity department, but the name said what it needed to say: Come inside and you'll find cheese. Any sort you can imagine.

On the day we opened, Mrs. Mutchnick, who owned the fabric store across the street, a grandmotherly type with her hair barely holding on to its ever-present bun, brought over a gift. It was a most unexpected opening-day gift. Not flowers. Not champagne. And I couldn't possibly have guessed when I unwrapped it (because Mrs. Mutchnick presented it to me) that this gift would come to change my life.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, there was the issue of the health inspection.

There are basic requirements. Things one must do in order to open a store that sells food.

Keep your shop clean. I mean truly clean, not what you try to pass off when your mom looks at your room, with everything shoved in a drawer or under your bed. You must keep your establishment absolutely spotless.

Have running water, hot and cold, and a working restroom.

Your freezer must be a certain temperature, which is different from the temperature you must keep the refrigerated cheese cases, which is different from the temperature you must keep the shop itself.

And generally, things need to smell good, which is easy enough, unless you happen to be in the business of selling stinky cheeses.

This is precisely where we ran into trouble with the inspector.

He'd enter the shop nose first, as if it, and not his pea-sized brain, were in charge of the rest of him. He came around often, too often, in the days leading up to the opening, rapping his clipboard on the shop front window and doing a little wave with his spindly fingers.

His name was Fletcher Melcher. I know it sounds like I'm making that up, but I'm not. And I'm not making up the forest of hair that lived in each of his nostrils either.

We called him Retcher Belcher, about as inspired as calling Mom's store the Cheese Shop, and he almost succeeded in keeping the shop from opening, which seemed to be his very purpose for walking the planet.

The day before we were to sell our first wedge of cheese, the freezer decided to stop working. And who should arrive only moments after we'd realized this? Right. The Belcher.

I'd taken the bus to the shop. Mom had arranged for me to ride a new bus from school, one that took me to the vicinity of the store rather than our small house not far from the beach. Nobody talked to me on this new bus, but that wasn't much of a change from what it was like to ride the old bus.

I was coming from Fireside Liquor, about to open my Good News, and I could see through the storefront window that Mom was in a state.

She was all flailing limbs. Her usually short and spiky hair had taken on that puffy look it got when she ran her fingers through it obsessively. She was yelling at Nick while he stood by and took it calmly, as only someone in possession of two particular qualities could.

One: Nick was unflappable. Some people would attribute this to the proximity of Fireside Liquor. But Nick wasn't a drunk; he was a surfer, just turned nineteen. Mellow to the max.

Two: Even if he knew almost nothing about cheese, Nick could fix practically anything.

The bell jingled as I walked through the front door. A sound that would later come to drive me mad.

"Drew," he said, and he put both of his hands on my shoulders. He fixed his green, sea-glass eyes on mine. "Thank God you're here."

His third outstanding quality: Nick Drummond was impossibly good-looking.

"Get your old lady under control, will you? Take her outside for some fresh air. Or maybe even a smoke." And with that he disappeared into the freezer.

This was Nick's stab at humor. Mom didn't smoke. Except for her love of cheese, she was pretty much a health nut. She did yoga. She meditated. She wore an earthy-smelling perfume, except when she was at work, because Mom believed that nothing should interfere with a customer's right to freely whiff the cheese.

"We're up a creek," she said.

"Chill out, Mom. It's gonna be cool." I'd only known Nick about a month, since we'd started getting the shop ready to open, but I was already perfecting his lingo. Anything to make him notice me.

"No, Drew. It's not gonna be cool. Fletcher Melcher is on his way. Daisy called. He's just asked for his check."

Daisy owned the diner three blocks up. That the Belcher was taking his lunch there could only mean one thing: he was on his way to us. He had it in for Mom and the shop, and every merchant on Euclid Avenue knew it.

"Nick'll take care of it," I told her. "He can do anything."

Mom reached over and stroked my hair. She smiled at me wistfully. "Oh Birdie, you're too sweet."

She walked behind the counter, grabbed an oversize wheel of Jarlsberg, and cut us each a slice. A disconcerting clanging came from inside the walk-in freezer. Mom winced. I pointed to the slice in her hand, then pointed to her mouth. She took a bite.

Jarlsberg: the comfort cheese.


Meet the Author

DANA REINHARDT is the author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, Harmless, How to Build a House, and The Things a Brother Knows. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters.

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The Summer I Learned to Fly 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My mom bought me this book yesterday and im already almost done with it. Emmett is a mystery i have yet to unravel, but a lovable character all the same. Birdie has so many different feelings jumbled around in her head (one of which is for emmett) and this wondeful book is about how she figures them all out. I love how the story is written as if by a child birdies age, its very relatable being that age myself, and very easy to read. I highly reccomend this book. I LOVE IT!
WishStealer More than 1 year ago
Amazing. It's strange that Birdie is so young, only 13, and she shows you how to grow up. She unravels mysteries, like who her the driver of the silver sedan is, and about Emmet. She also learns to make sacrifices; though they seem small in her case, it shows that we need to make sacrifices for the ones we love sometimes. This book will hold you in the whole time and leave you wanting more. Read it!
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
In 1986 on Euclid Avenue - before it became the posh, high-society location it is now - a person could run into the fabric store to say hello to the widow, or head into the liquor store to pick up a 'Good News' candy, before running back across the street to The Cheese Shop. Drew Robin Solo is the young girl whose Mom ran The Cheese Shop and, in 1986, Mom was busy dealing with the grand opening and dealing with the hideous health inspector who seemed to be trying his absolute best to shut the shop down before it ever even opened. Nick Drummond, a nineteen-year-old boy who Drew has a total crush on, is 'Mr. Fix-it,' and solves all of her mother's issues so that The Cheese Shop can open on time. It is a good little store and the community seems to love it but, unfortunately, the huge supermarket sells cheese a whole lot cheaper. Drew spends her summer days helping out Mom in the shop, and learning how to make the perfect pasta from Nick. She also carries around her pet rat - which was given to her as a gift at the Grand Opening of the store. The rat is called Hum, which stands for His Excellency Lord High Humboldt Fog (which, by the way, is a very fancy cheese). Other than Mom, Nick, Hum, and Swoozie - who is a woman from Wisconsin who joined The Cheese Shop team when she came to town - Drew doesn't really hang out with anyone her own age. Until. One evening Hum disappears and Drew is absolutely frantic. She races around the store and out into the alley, where she hears a voice and meets a young boy by the name of Emmett Crane - a boy who has Hum perched on his shoulder. Over the next few weeks things begin changing in young Drew's life. Her mother is coming home late from the shop; Nick has gone and found himself a girlfriend, breaking Drew's heart; and, she and Emmett Crane begin to go on 'dates' together. Emmett has secrets; Drew knows this because he can never quite answer any of her questions. But Emmett has a uniqueness about him - kind and comforting like a purely gentle soul. He shares stories with Drew until one day he shares a very strange and beautiful one that makes Drew want to help Emmett on his quest. This author has done a stunning job. During this very special summer Drew meets her first real love, gets her first taste of freedom, and even watches the Golden Gate Bridge appear in all its glory through the gray mist of morning. Her relationship with her mother matures, and the memories of her father will make all readers feel the hope, love, and regret that Drew experiences in her soul. Quill Says: The characters are beautiful, the plot is outstanding, and the words read as if a master poetess put them on paper. A Must-Read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was ten and understood every part of it.Except whenever I thought I was done with the book I didn't read the epilouge so I thought there was going to be another book after this one.Because the book said that they lept into the pond so I want to know what happened after they leaped into that pond. I want to know if thimgs went good with Emmets Dad amd I also want to know if Birdie's Mom got married to that Man that she had met. Please somebody tell me that way I don't have to actually buy the book just so I can read the epilouge
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im reading book for a book report in 10 years old and i understand every part i hope you make more books!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You wont regret it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!!! Wonderfully written and tastefuly designed, this is a must read for girls of all ages!!!!!
SpartanReading More than 1 year ago
I give this book a five out of five. I would give it that rate because throughout the whole story it kept me eager to just get on the next page and get into the book deeper and deeper. Also, at the end of each chapter each one was unique and different from every single other one throughout the book. This kept me excited and motivated to keep on going with this book! The book is about a 13th year old girl named Drew, her with her mom, and a cheese shop they own. She's not very social (you could say shes's little shy) and all her friends are on summer vacation. Now she had nothing to do but to work at the cheese shop. Which leaves her all alone with her mom. She has just moved into that town just a few months back and is still trying to find the ropes to the place. All of a sudden on a summer humid night she meets a boy named Emmett Crane just around her age in the back alley of her and her moms shop. He makes her world turn upside down in a good way. Along the story her,her new friend, and her pet rat go on adventures they would never had dreamed about in there life. Emmett had gone through some tough times in his life how Drew had too. But, together in the book they let go of there dark spot in their heart and brighten it with the adventures they take on together. All a sudden her mom meets somebody and do something that could affect her daughter's whole life. Her mom was getting remarried after the death of Drew's dad a few years ago. Drew's happy that her mom met someone new. Her friend Emmett gives her origami cranes to her with something special inside that grows their friendship they have bigger and bigger. But to know what Emmett wrote in the paper crane you have to read the book. I recommend this book to teens or grades 6th to 8th graders who love stories about a good friendship,thrilling adventures they take on, and things they accomplish together in the book. In the text when Drew is grounded for going out without permission, she goes out one last time for her friend Emmett. They go to different places to find this one pond that people say is good luck. They find it and take a big leap into it. Emmett hopes/wishes good things will happen with his dad and his family because they weren't doing good at that time. When Drew hopes/wishes for her and Emmett to be good friends for a good amount of time. I also recommend this book to people who do have a truly loving friendship with there friend or to anyone with someone special in their heart. In the book it states that when Emmett gave Drew a paper crane with a note so unique inside it, she knew deep inside her heart that he would never leave her and always be there for her. Even if they are on the opposite side of the earth from each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This coming of age and finding yourself story is outstanding. I loved the characters and was so intrigued by Emmet. I read this book in one sitting- I'd recommend it to anyone!