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Summary: In the Summer of 1936, the days were full of farm chores for the Christofis girls and their neighbors the Brownings. Still, there was plenty of time to grow friendships. One night, when three local boys got drunk and launched a brutal attack on Jimmy Browning and Helena Christofis, the depth of their faith and understanding of friendship were truly tested. Modern social circumstances and Greek legend are woven into a story for teens about generosity, sacrifice, courage, and prejudice.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 13; read yourself: 10 and up
Interest Level: 8 to 12
Age of Child: Read by a student at Woodside Magnet High School for Arts and Communication (Newport News, VA)
Young Reader Reaction: This book left me with a good feeling. It reminded me of stories my grandmother told about living in the 1930s. It needs a sequel.
Adult Reader Reaction: This was a page turner of the first order. As I was reading, I kept peeking ahead to see what happened next. The author crafted a wonderful story. Although there are strong Christian undertones, the book weaves a story that all teens can enjoy, as the characters and their circumstances are somewhat universal. I would hope the author is thinking about a sequel that delves even more deeply into some of the characters or life in Appalachia.
Pros: The story moves quickly, offering characters of depth, a plot-line that go beyond traditional "summer of xxx" teen stories, and humor, as well.
Cons: None, really.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a story that teens will read over and over, each time gathering a richer understanding of the book's message and characters. Student reviewer: Buy! My library needs this book. More people should know about it.
Educational Themes: It is easy to take the story in different directions. There is an opportunity to learn more about Greek myths and the rituals of Greek life. English/Literature majors will love the opportunity to parallel the story with Emily Dickinson poems cited in the book. The most valuable aspect, though is dissecting the characters and understanding life back in 1936. There is plenty to talk about: old country v. life in the United States; prejudice; bullying; personal faith; transformation of faith; growing up without a Mom; etc.
Literary Categories: Fiction - mythology, family, Christian, young adult, 1930s, realistic fiction, coming of age