Name of the book: The Summer Before Boys
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Audience: Grades 6-8
Summary: Julia is staying with her friend Eliza while her father works and her mother is stationed in Iraq. Her summer is going as she thought it would, hanging out at the resort where Eliza’s father works, and playing as friends do. However all is not as carefree as it may seem. Julia worries about her mother, a new boy, Michael, at the resort and her changing relationship with Eliza. When they go on a walk that lasts longer than Julia thought, she leaves Eliza to continue alone as she goes back hoping to find Michael at the movies. When she comes home and finds that Eliza is not home and all are searching for her, guilt overwhelms her. A wonderful book that realistically celebrates and respects the transformation young girls go through growing up.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story: This coming of age book for girls is told with insight and respect. Often books for girls on this subject are silly or overdone and it is refreshing to see Baskin treat it honestly, allowing the reader to relate to these likeable but flawed friends.
Literary elements at work in the story: By using first person narrative, Baskin gives the reader an intimate look at Julia and her life in transition making her very believable. The inclusion of other women who have died in war is a nice subtile way to show Julia’s worries about her mother at war without being overdone.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:12
Theology: Paul is telling Timothy to earn the respect of the people by living a godly life. Then no one will be able to criticize him. Paul could have been just as easily talking to Julia and Eliza as Timothy. The girls learn, almost too late, that living a godly life is more about earning respect as friends than just being friends. If Julia and Eliza had been honest with each other, trusting in their respected friendship, they, and those around them, would have been spared many anxious moments. We must back up what we say with actions that are true to our words. It is a hard lesson to learn, but one that we are never too young or old to learn.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Have you ever not told someone something important? Why?
- What did you do?
- Have you ever lied to a friend?
- What did you do?
- How would you feel if your parent was at war?
- Would it change how you behave?
- What can we do to live as Paul asks us to live?
- Are we ever too young to live as Paul asks?
Review prepared by regular contributor Janet Lloyd