Fun Books for Summer

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Some of my favorite memories of childhood summers involve reading... and visits to my grandparents. Reading is what we did when there was nothing else very exciting going on, which of course, was most of the time. Like Jonelle, I devoured books by the score every summer vacation in every possible location... on the porch, on a blanket spread out on the ground, up a tree.

More than anything else, though, I looked forward to summer road trips. Almost every summer we made a trip to visit one or the other sets of grandparents, and we would stay a week or so. Most of my memories of those trips are little snapshots of isolated incidents... Grandmother making peanut-butter-and-muscadine-jam sandwiches for us to take to our "play house" down by the barn... Granddaddy recruiting all the visiting grand-kids to pick up rocks in the field... We made great memories!

I was reminded of some of those memories recently when I read two of Richard Peck's books as part of Core 100. (However, my grandparents were quite normal compared to the eccentric Grandma in these books!)

A Long Way from Chicago is a series of short stories that together make up a novel about a brother and sister who visit their grandmother for a week each August as they are growing up during the Great Depression. Joey and Mary Alice live in the big city of Chicago. In the summer of 1929 their parents decide that they are old enough (at ages 7 and 9) to ride the train to spend a week with Grandma who lives in a small town somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. The story of that first visit is told in Chapter 1, entitled "Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night Above Ground." The second chapter tells of their second visit to Grandma's in the summer of 1930, and so on through 1935. Grandma is a very colorful character who is not very popular with her neighbors. It takes the kids awhile to figure out why she does certain things. "Grandma saved herself a lot of bother by not being the kind of person you question."

A Year Down Yonder is the sequel, set in 1937. Joey is 17 and has joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and gone out west, so he's not part of the story. Dad has lost his job, and Mary Alice is sent to live with Grandma for a year. At age 15 she is not at all thrilled to have to change schools and live with her wacky Grandma. In spite of Grandma's shenanigans (or maybe because of them) Mary Alice finds herself learning and growing, and by the end of the year she's not sure she wants to go back to Chicago.

If your kids are avid readers like I was, these two books would make a great addition to our Summer Reader packages. Of course, they are scheduled in Core 100, but great books are worth re-reading, don't you think?

Enjoying the adventure,
~Karla Cook
Lifelong Learner (and Avid Reader)
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