Biracial siblings connect with their estranged grandparents in Caterpillar Summer.
Caterpillar Summer by Gullian McDunn. Bloomsbury, 2019, 291 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 8-12
Summer vacation can’t come too soon for Cat. Her family is going all the way from their home in San Francisco to Atlanta! While her mom teaches a three-week college class, Cat and her little brother Chicken (real name, Henry) will stay with her friend Richi who moved to Atlanta a year ago. Or that was the plan. But when Rishi’s family is suddenly called away to care for his sick grandmother in India, there’s only one alternative for Cat and her brother. After a quick, tense phone call, Mom delivers them to her parents on Gingerbread Island, off the coast of Georgia. The kids have never met Macon and Lily because their mom doesn’t have much to do with them. Apparently there’s a history.
Still, Lily is easy to know and Macon shows signs of unbending after a few days. Chicken needs a lot of looking after (he seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum), but he bonds with his grandmother. Meanwhile, Cat makes a friend in fun-loving Harriet and clashes with mean John Harvey. She might even learn to fish with her grandfather. But what keeps her mom and grandparents apart? And is there anything Cat can do to bring them together?
There are no big reveals and the story unfolds in a leisurely fashion, like a summer on the beach. It’s a bit slow at times, even though Cat and her grandfather Macon get over their initial reserve rather fast. The reason for years of family estrangement doesn’t seem powerful enough for the effect, but there’s blame on both sides—as Cat learns, no one is all bad or all good. That knowledge is a small step on the way to growing up, and the novel pleasant, sympathetic summer read.
Overall rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic value: 4