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Summer of the War

Summer of the War

4.0 1
by Gloria Whelan

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It's the summer of 1942. At her grandparents' island cottage in Michigan, 14–year–old Belle excitedly awaits the arrival of her exotic older cousin, Carolyn. Belle's expecting worldly sophistication and French style. But Carolyn brings much more than that: she carries the troubling reality of the World War that is ravaging her home. Turtle Island will


It's the summer of 1942. At her grandparents' island cottage in Michigan, 14–year–old Belle excitedly awaits the arrival of her exotic older cousin, Carolyn. Belle's expecting worldly sophistication and French style. But Carolyn brings much more than that: she carries the troubling reality of the World War that is ravaging her home. Turtle Island will never be the same again.

Set against the backdrop of breezy island cottages, this heartrending tale from National Book Award medalist Gloria Whelan is the story of a beautiful place and a special friendship–and how events thousands of miles away shaped them both.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fourteen-year-old narrator Mirabelle and her three siblings spend every summer at their grandparents' island cottage off of Michigan's upper peninsula. But 1942's tumult (in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor) takes its toll. Belle's mother has resumed her medical career, and her father takes a seven-day-a-week job supervising production of B24s for the Air Force: neither will be joining the children this summer. Belle's longstanding crush, Ned, talks about enlisting in the Navy when he turns 18 next spring. And Belle's family changes forever when 15-year-old cousin Caroline, her widowed diplomat father dispatched to London, arrives at their cottage, where she's been sent to be out of harm's way. Whelan's (The Turning) title hints at the book's double entendre, the conflict both global and personal that Belle and her family face. Angry and prone to airs fostered by her pampered Parisian childhood, Carrie resists both the earnest efforts of her cousins and the order Grandpa imposes on the family. She schemes to escape the isolation of island life, with near-disastrous results. Belying the emotional drama, Belle's narrative relates the rift that Carrie causes, with an equanimity more nostalgic than of-the-moment. While the family is deeply affected by Carrie even more so after learning of her father's death the island's flora and fauna, its storms and calm, mitigate and soothe everyone's distress. Even Carrie, replicating the garden that her mother had detailed in a long-ago summer journal, finds solace and renewal as summer ends. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Whelan has written numerous books for YAs, most recently Listening for Lions, and she has set her stories all over the world, from India, to Russia, to Africa and England. In Summer of the War, the setting is northern Michigan, which is where Whelan herself lives. The time is a summer during WW II, 1942 to be exact. Belle and her sister and brother are going to the summer home of their grandparents on an isolated island, as they do every summer. They are going to meet their cousin there: Caroline, who has lived in Paris and New York and Washington, DC. Belle is fascinated with the idea of their worldly cousin until the two clash almost immediately. Caroline's father is in London during the Blitz as part of the US State Department, and she longs to be with him, in the center of things, not stuck in this remote spot. Caroline finds her cousins hopelessly provincial, yet part of her is jealous of their closeness and the love they have for their parents and grandparents. Several crises later, Caroline begins to connect with the place and with her new family. As is true of other Whelan books, this has an old-fashioned quality to it. The characters are developed slowly and carefully, and the plot at first seems quiet, but it gathers intensity. Belle is someone we can all appreciate immediately, and the surprise is to realize later on that we actually like Caroline too. Whelan's skill is apparent throughout. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, HarperCollins, 163p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
VOYA - Lucy Schall
In this engaging and thought-provoking story, Mirabelle recalls her fourteenth summer in 1942. Her family is disrupted by World War II, and she meets frustrating and fascinating Caroline, her rebellious and snobbish fifteen-year-old cousin from France. Mirabelle treasures the quiet, predictable summers at her grandparents' summer home, an island in the Great Lakes where she bonds with her family, books, and nature. Caroline, whose father works for the government, sends her to the island for her safety when he is transferred to England. As her father does, Caroline loves city life, beautiful clothes, gourmet food, and excitement. Her glamour and stubbornness divide the siblings, destroy the island's orderly life, and almost steal Mirabelle's boyfriend. As the grandfather returns after rescuing Caroline from a midnight rendezvous that Mirabelle reports too late, the family learns that Caroline's father, taking an unnecessary risk, was killed in England. In trying to comfort Caroline, all discover their human connections and conclude that with love and respect, difference does not threaten cohesion. As in Homeless Bird (HarperCollins, 2000/VOYA February 2001), and Chu Ju's House (HarperCollins, 2004/VOYA October 2004), Whelan powerfully examines a strong girl's coming-of-age in a changing culture. Like the United States in World War II, Mirabelle, isolated and insulated by her island's comfort, love, and Puritanical lifestyle, opens to a new and frightening but inviting bigger world. The novel, appealing mostly to middle school and junior high girls, will provoke discussion about parochial thinking and world responsibility for older readers as well.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-The yearly summer pleasures of a Michigan cottage away from the stress of school, work, and city life are interrupted in 1942 for 14-year-old Belle and her family. Wartime has required her parents to stay behind with her father supervising the production of warplanes and her mother returning to her medical practice, covering for male doctors leaving for the army and navy. Belle and her three siblings return to their grandparents' cottage and are joined by their 15-year-old cousin, Carrie, who has been raised, following her mother's death, in Paris and Washington, DC, and whose father is in war-besieged Europe. Belle anticipates much-needed friendship and camaraderie, yet Carrie arrives with a sophisticated and arrogant demeanor, upsetting the normally simple lifestyle of her family. Whelan masterfully paints a tension-filled story of two opposite worlds colliding and clashing with one another through her well-developed principal characters. Belle's first-person narrative expresses her mixed feelings, from excitement about the arrival of a new relative to bewildered disappointment in and anger toward her unappreciative, snobby cousin. When Carrie's father is killed in a bomb raid in London, the entire family must not only come to terms with his death, but also with the mutual adjustment that permanently living with their orphaned cousin will require. Whelan aptly combines themes of war, death, loss, adjustment, and coming of age through her symbolic references of both personal and global warfare. A worthy, discussable page-turner.-Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Summers on Turtle Island have always been perfect, an idyllic escape for Belle (14), her three siblings, parents and grandparents. Then, on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything. Her dad goes to work for Ford; her mom returns to medical practice; and their teen cousin from Paris comes to stay while her father works for the London Embassy. When Caroline arrives wearing a dress and high heels, it's clear she doesn't want to be there. Belle, Emily (12), Nancy (8) and Tommy (10) try hard to include her in their summer fun and activities, but Caroline refuses to join in, remaining sulky, condescending and obstinate. There are two wars that summer-one remote and one on home territory-and both change the lives of everyone on the island. Radio broadcasts keep the overseas war distant, but the intensity of the familial one ties them all in knots. Their paradise of summer living loses its innocence when the harshness of war transforms the days that become bygone. Beautifully measured writing captures the smell of lake breezes, the feel of sand between the toes and the emotional ache of growing up when change is not a choice. An exceptional portrayal of how war becomes personal. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Summer of the War

By Gloria Whelan

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Gloria Whelan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060080736

Chapter One

In winter's ice and snow we closed our eyes and saw the green island and the blue lake and were comforted. I dreamed about the big wooden cottage painted green so that it disappeared into the trees. I knew every tree and every inch of deserted beach. It made the world better just to think about the summer afternoons that never seemed to end and the long evenings when we sat on the porch watching the sun sink into the lake like a great orange balloon. The minute school was out, we began packing.

This year we were more eager than ever to escape to the island, for in December the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States had declared war on Japan and Germany. The newspapers were full of lists of soldiers who had died and pictures of bombed cities. On the island we seldom saw a newspaper. On the island we would be able to forget about the war.

In past summers Mom and Dad had been with us on the island. Mom would stay all summer keeping an eye on us kids. She would wipe off her nail polish, take off her shoes, and catch up on her reading. Dad would spend a couple of weeks fishing and try not to argue with Grandpa over politics. This year everything was upside down. Dad had talked of going off to war and even started to do push-ups; but atthirty-seven and with four kids, he didn't interest the Army. That was a blow to Dad's ego, but it didn't stop him from wanting to do his part. He took a leave of absence from his position at Ford Motor Company to help supervise the production of B24 Liberators for the Army Air Force. It was a seven-day-a-week, fourteen-hour-a-day job.

Mom was going back to the medical practice she had left when we came along. She was needed because doctors were leaving their practices to join the Army and Navy. She hated to miss summer on the island, but she was excited about practicing medicine again. There were medical journals all over the house. "I've got so much catching up to do," she said. She brought out her white coats, moved the buttons to give herself more room, and modeled them for us. She let us listen to our hearts with her stethoscope and showed us how to make our legs jerk by hitting our knees with her little rubber hammer.

I think if we hadn't had the island to look forward to, we would have felt abandoned with Mom and Dad so wrapped up in their busy new lives; instead we felt sorry for them having to give up their summer vacations. Grandma and Grandpa would be on the island. Grandpa ruled the island. He was like an emperor presiding over a watery kingdom, or he was Shakespeare's Prospero on his uninhabited island and we were the spirits that attended him. Until Carrie came, no one considered disobeying Grandpa. Why would we? We loved him and we loved the island. It was Grandpa who formed our summers. We couldn't imagine a summer without him.

The first week in June, Tommy, Emily, Nancy, and I set off by ourselves for the island. At fourteen I was the oldest and as much in charge as my brother and sisters would let me be. I had two sisters, Emily, twelve, and Nancy, eight, and one brother, Tommy, who was ten. Mom packed chicken sandwiches, po-tato chips, and carrot sticks. Our suitcases were crammed with summer clothes. Instead of going in Mom's car, as we usually did, this year we would go by bus from Detroit to Mackinaw City, and from there we would take the ferry to St. Ignace. We would be on our own, which made all of us a little nervous, but since we were all together, we were sure nothing bad could happen.

We had followed the same route every summer of our lives, so it was like turning pages in a scrapbook: familiar towns, familiar farmlands, and finally, familiar forests and lakes. If even the smallest thing along the way was different--a new stoplight in one of the small towns, a barn painted green when for years it had been red--we were stunned by the change and couldn't stop chattering about it. Because of Mom's and Dad's new lives, we resented changes and worried that when we got there, something on the island might be different. We wanted everything to stay just the same.

The ferry brought us across the straits to St. Ignace on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula was more wild and more lone than the rest of Michigan. It was like the difference between a wolf and a dog. We scrambled up the stairs to the top of the ferry, where we would have the best view. Lake Huron stretched as far as you could see, and somewhere in the blue distance was the island.

Mr. Norkin was waiting for us with his ancient Chevrolet and four cold soda pops. We had known the Norkins forever. Mr. Norkin caught fish to sell and guided sportfishermen from downstate. He knew the lake so well, Grandpa said you could drop a penny anywhere in Lake Huron and Jim Norkin could find it. Mrs. Norkin sold vegetables from her garden and worked for us one day a week on the island. Since the war began there had been gas rationing, and I handed Mr. Norkin the gas coupons Dad had saved to reimburse him for the trip between St. Ignace and Birch Bay, and then we piled into the car, everyone but Nancy fighting for the front seat.

Mr. Norkin chose Nancy to sit next to him, probably because she was the one who wasn't pushing and scrambling. He collected the empty pop bottles and carefully put them into a paper bag. There was a rumor that he . . .


Excerpted from Summer of the War by Gloria Whelan Copyright © 2006 by Gloria Whelan. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square; Burying the Sun; Once on This Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; and Return to the Island. She lives in the woods of northern Michigan.

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Summer of the War 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Veggiechiliqueen More than 1 year ago
Fourteen-year-old Belle longs for summer; it's when she's free to leave Detroit and return to her family's cottage on Lake Huron. Every summer, she and her siblings participate in the timeless rituals of childhood summers: swimming, fishing, reading, and playing cards in the comfortable cottage they share with their grandparents, sipping lemonade and watching sunsets from the porch. However, the summer of 1942 is different: Belle's cousin Carrie is sent to stay with them. Despite several mentions of pertinent military developments, the story didn't feel dated as WWII (unlike other period novels such as Dream When You're Feeling Blue: A Novel, the 1940s takes a backseat here).

Carrie's arrival upsets the delicate family balance. Raised in France and used to getting her own way, Carrie appears spoiled and obsessed with fashion and society. She looks down on Belle's grandmother's cooking and is horrified to discover that there isn't even a movie theater nearby (Belle's is the only cottage on the island). Carrie rebels against the rules that the rest of the family had followed without questioning, until a tragedy forces her to reevaluate.

As with other books by Gloria Whelan (The Pathless Woods: Ernest Hemingway's Sixteenth Summer in Northern Michigan, Once on This Island)Northern Michigan plays a starring role. There are detailed descriptions of wildlife, particularly birds, and of wildflowers, of channel currents and nautical knowledge. You can practically feel the scorching August sand beneath your toes and hear the echoes of thunder as storms roll over the island. Summer of the War is a delightful read that captures the lazy days of summer despite a changing world.