69. Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Sara Pennypacker. 2012. 275 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The earth spins at a thousand miles an hour. Sometimes when I remember this, it’s all I can do to stay upright–the urge to flatten myself to the ground and clutch hold is that strong. 

Premise/plot: I hope YOU do not judge books by their covers. Sometimes covers lie. They don’t truly capture the truth, the whole truth, of a book. (Probably rarely do cover the whole truth). But I do think books should capture the tone/essence of a book. This book looks whimsical, sweet, wholesome, adorable, light-hearted, feel-good, delightful. It is anything but. 

Stella lives with her great-aunt Louise. Louise has not only taken in her great-niece, Stella, but has also taken another foster child into her home. Angel and Stella don’t always see things eye to eye, but, they will through the course of this book when circumstances change.

Stella is hoping that her mother (who abandoned her) will return by the end of the summer. Stella (and Angel) just have to hold on until the end of summer, right? How hard can it be???

My thoughts: Summer of the Gypsy Moths probably is in my top five books of MOST DISTURBING BOOKS WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED FOR CHILDREN list. Emphasis, MY list. I am sure there are PLENTY of books that I have yet to discover that could make this list. I don’t seek out disturbing books. Well, I guess that could be debated. I do read some books with heavy, weighty subjects. 

What makes Summer of Gypsy Moths disturbing???? Well. Let’s just say their guardian, Louise, doesn’t survive the first few chapters. (Perhaps even dying in chapter one? maybe, maybe chapter two?) Plenty of children’s books deal with death and dying. But not many go the direction this one does….














Angel and Stella (two eleven year olds) decide NOT to report Louise’s death. And it takes them a while (perhaps days, maybe even a week? a little longer?) to decide WHAT to do with her body. In the meanwhile, as they are debating betwixt themselves, just grab the Febreze and spray, spray, spray. Eventually, they agree to bury her in the garden–by themselves–still not alerting anyone about her death. The girls will go on living in their home and tending to themselves. If adults should ask questions about Louise (and they do), just lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. 

It isn’t until Stella comes to the hard realization that her mother may not return anytime soon–at the end of summer–that she thoughtfully considers putting an end to this game.And I do think the girls almost think of it as a game–playing grown-up and seeing how long they can go on without getting caught. So MONTHS go by essentially.

Eventually, the girls will need to face consequences, BUT, those consequences are essentially non-existent. Angel finds an aunt to take her in. And Stella enters the foster care system. But no adult or community of adults–not police officers, not social workers, not mental health professionals, not journalists–seem to care at all–even a little bit–about what the girls have done. Covering up a death, burying a body, and telling hundreds of lies. Maybe you think the girls haven’t done anything criminal exactly–maybe you do–but let’s take a moment or two to think MENTAL HEALTH. Don’t these girls need some help or intervention???? Even if it is just to work through the trauma of it all??? But NOPE, everything is 100% okay. 

I had some issues with George. George seems to be the only human being in this town that even ventures forth to ask the occasional question about Louise. And he even admits later that the girls lies shouldn’t have been convincing, that he was a fool to believe them for a second. Yet this man, this man who essentially believed those lies–no matter how silly and stupid–is capable of taking Stella in as a foster child????? I have questions.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky’s Book Reviews


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