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Summer of the Pike

Overview

Anna, Daniel, and Lucas seem to be living a dream. While their parents take care of a castle, they have the run of the grounds and the beautiful surrounding countryside. Their only concern is how best to catch the mysterious pike that lurks in the deep water of the moat. But when Daniel and Lucas’s mother first begins to seem tired all the time, and then loses her hair, Anna wonders what is going on. It is cancer, she is told, but Daniel and Lucas must not know. As the summer days grow shorter and the colors of ...

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Overview

Anna, Daniel, and Lucas seem to be living a dream. While their parents take care of a castle, they have the run of the grounds and the beautiful surrounding countryside. Their only concern is how best to catch the mysterious pike that lurks in the deep water of the moat. But when Daniel and Lucas’s mother first begins to seem tired all the time, and then loses her hair, Anna wonders what is going on. It is cancer, she is told, but Daniel and Lucas must not know. As the summer days grow shorter and the colors of the fields and flowers change, the boys eventually learn of their mother’s illness. Daniel becomes convinced that catching the pike will bring luck — that it might even cure his mother. But as her condition worsens, these three true friends can only wish that they could stop the destructive march of time. Jutta Richter’s powerful prose makes this sensitive story set during a summer idyll an unforgettable one.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In German novelist Richter's American debut, Anna both narrates and experiences the powerless bewilderment of her friends, siblings Daniel and Lucas, whose mother contracts cancer. As summer arrives, the boys' mother, Gisela, returns from the hospital and weakens progressively. When Gisela begins to wear headscarves, Anna asks her own mother, "Is Gisela going bald?" Informed of the cancer, Anna promises not to tell the boys. The heroine witnesses the pain endured not only by Gisela's family, but her own single mom (caring for both Gisela and the boys). Anna suffers in turn, longing for more closeness with her mother, and rekindling affectionate memories of her absent father. Daniel and Lucas cope through endless hours of fishing near the manor, in which the two families live, and follow Daniel's plan to catch a huge resident pike. "I don't believe in God anymore," he tells Anna. "I only believe in the pike. In the pike-god. And that I'll manage to catch him. All by myself. And when I've done it, then Mom will get better again!" The translation bumps just slightly in spots: dialogue garners a surfeit of exclamation points, and residents who gossip about Gisela's travails are labeled "yahoos." Inevitably, all of Daniel's delusions fall away with the last pages of this brief, quietly observed elegy to childhood's last flashes of innocence. Ages 8-13. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
Two families who have been close friends since their children were babies live on the grounds of a German castle where the mothers work. The children—Anna, Daniel, and Lucas—are bused to school in a nearby town. Because they belong neither to the farms nor to the town, the three spend most of their time together roaming the grounds or fishing for redeye in the castle moat, though they are forbidden to try to catch the large pike at the bottom of the murky water. But this summer will not be the usual idyll. Daniel and Lucas's mother is gravely ill, and Anna's mother tries to help care for her and keep an eye on the boys. The children are unsettled, not knowing exactly what is wrong and hoping desperately that Gisela will get better. One morning when Daniel and Anna are on the bus to the high school, he tells her that his mother's hair is falling out. When she confronts her own mother after school, she is told that Gisela has cancer and that it must be kept from the boys. As the days go on and Daniel becomes more and more distressed, he announces that he no longer believes that there are miracles or guardian angels that can help his mother. Instead, he is determined that if he can catch and kill the pike, Gisela will get well. Anna, too, is tormented by Gisela's deteriorating condition. When a popular farm girl invites her to go for ice cream after school one day, she is eager to escape the sadness that pervades the two families. But the girl only wants to gossip about a perceived relationship between Daniel's father and Anna's mother. The novel quietly examines the fear and grief of children whose life is changing radically and who can find no rational way to cope with theirfears.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Anna's single mom and Daniel and Lucas's parents work for the earl of a castle in Germany. They live across the courtyard from one another and have been friends forever. Now, Anna's carefree life romping about the castle and dashing across the courtyard to visit her buddies is shifting as the boys' mother is losing her battle with cancer. Anna observes her friends fishing the murky moat waters for an illusive and legendary pike and the three youngsters cling to a childlike mindset of "one of those summers that goes on forever." Anna longs for normal life to resume-spending time with the boys or, maybe, establishing friendships with girls. She is out-of-sorts with the brothers' determination to capture the pike, and she is angry with her mother's single focus toward Gisela, who is bedridden, yet is a vital spiritual presence. This allegorical tale is eloquent and poignant. Anna is able to accept the death of her guinea pig, "But it's really not asking too much for mothers to hold off dying at least until their kids are grown." For Anna, Daniel, and Lucas, the romance of living in a castle under the forever dome of summertime slips away, as do the victorious feelings of catching the pike.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This quiet, literary novel marks the auspicious American debut for Richter, an acclaimed writer for children and adults in her native Germany. Set on the wooded grounds of a castle and seen through the eyes of a young girl, Anna, it is a sensitive depiction of loss, friendship and family. Anna grew up with the estate's tenants, Daniel and Lucas, and the three are as close as any siblings could be. At the same time, she's disgusted by the boys' fascination with catching a magnificent pike in the forbidden moat. This obsession takes on added significance as the boys' mother slowly succumbs to cancer over the summer. Neither exploitative nor sanitized, this is a penetrating portrait of one of life's most difficult and messiest passages. Anna's mother-who is nursing the dying Gisela-drowns her sorrow in drink, cigarettes and tears. In the meantime, Anna must look on as the mother she finds emotionally distant provides the intimacy and comfort to the grieving boys that she longs for herself. While there's some initial confusion about the identity of the characters and their relationships, the spare, continuous text has been smoothly translated. This smart, subtle and sympathetic offering will appeal to sophisticated teen readers, as well as their adult counterparts. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571316721
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 92
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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