18 April 2014

The Summer of the Swans: 1971 Newbery Award Winner

The beginning of March 2014 I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book.  A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

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Cover of the book - The image is used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause

Sara Godfrey: Teenage Angst

"She could never really be sure of anything this summer.  One moment she was happy, and the next, for no reason, she was miserable."

Sara Godfrey is fourteen, and suddenly nothing seems right with her world.  It is summertime, and Sara lives in a West Virginia town with beautiful older sister Wanda and her mentally-handicapped brother Charlie, who are watched over by her father's younger sister Willie while he works in another state.  Sara finds fault with everyone but her little brother, because he can't help himself, and wishes she could fly away like the swans that live on the nearby lake.  She is also extremely overprotective of Charlie, and stops at nothing to "avenge" any wrongs done to him, though most are minor, and the resulting punishments she endures puts her deeper into a "world is out to get her" funk.  When Charlie disappears, Sara must come out of her teen-aged moodiness to figure out what really is important to her, and why her family does what they do.

This was a quick read for me, as I read it in only twenty minutes.  It was a good read, and an accurate description of teenage angst.  The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars, is the story of one girl discovering that the world is not unfair to her, no matter how much she thinks it is.  Sara, being a middle child, feels like everyone is threatening to her, and she must act out to protect herself and her brother.  When she discovers that people can and do change, or at least her perceptions of them can change, she matures.  The story takes place in only two days, but was a good story nevertheless.

One thing I find interesting is the amount of Newbery Award winning books that take place in West Virginia.  I seem to have read them almost one after the other.  Summer of the Swans is just one example.  Missing May, Shiloh, and Belle Prater's Boy (while not a winner it is a Newbery Honor Book) all take place in West Virginia and Walk Two Moons has part of its setting in the Appalachians as well.

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