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Book Review – A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland

Sunday Fowler is the middlest of middle children from Middlesburg, Middletonia, Middletown. At 11 (almost 12!) she is too young for her two older sisters, and too old for her three younger brothers. Everyone in her family either dismisses her, forgets her, or takes her for granted. In fact, in the first couple of chapters, they manage to leave her behind at a gas station, drive for two hours, and never realize she is gone. And she never tells them. Typical middle child ‘peacemaker’ behavior.

I was so pleased (once I got past the two hour abandonment, which frankly left me sobbing) to find that, although A Summer of Sundays contains almost everything I’ve come to expect and be left bored by in a middle grades novel, the author has instead turned what is fairly typical into an engaging story that is sure to resonate with children. Sunday Fowler is determined to leave her mark on the summer and be ‘recognized’ – Lindsay Eland definitely left her mark on this reader.

What worked for me in this book:

The characterization was top-notch. Even the minor characters were fully realized. The different members of Sunday’s family were at once both recognized ‘types’ and fully realized characters. The family dynamic was healthy and realistic. The story line was recognizable enough to follow while filled with enough unexpected twists to keep the reader’s interest.

What didn’t work for me in this book:

Ummmm…sorry. I’ve got nothing.

How I think it works as a purchase:

This is engaging, solid, realistic fiction for the 8 to 11-year-old set. There is something in it for everyone. It has broad appeal and will leave the reader to more closely examine their own world and the people in it they may be overlooking. And it will give hope and companionship to those readers in an age group that often feel overlooked. In essence, it meets the requirements to be included in my favorite literary quote from Matilda. Find it (and more about me) here.

A Summer of Sundays was just released by Egmont on July 9, 2013 and is available widely.

Summertimes by Lindsay Eland, author of A Summer of Sundays

For some reason when I picture summer evenings, I often think of porch lights—that little glow in the evening dusk and on into the thick night. Porch lights are a little smile on a house, a twinkle that blinks a warm welcome to neighbors or passersby.
            My parents have talked about these.
            How porch lights here turned on every evening and the adults pulled out deck chairs or settled onto swings to watch the kids gather around, scheming. Neighbors took walks and stopped by a porch-lit home to chat, share a cup of coffee, a laugh, some talk about the football game, gossip about this and that. It was a coming-together.
            But those sorts of porch lights—collecting stray bugs and bits of moonlight—are more or less a thing of the past.
            We live farther from each other, retreat into our homes for our evening routines of television shows, movies, coffee, or checking the latest on Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, Twitter, or our favorite blogs.
            Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lamenting these times—they are my times, and each time has its own beauty and its own ugly—like in every bit of change.
            But where are the porch lights now? Are there any left shining out in the darkness?
            Because we humans need light—we crave it.
            In the winter, light offers warmth. In the spring, the promise of growing. In the summer, light means long days and late nights. In the fall, light is the orange glow of a pumpkin or candles on a Thanksgiving table.
            “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.” ( From The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo)
            I couldn’t’ve said it better.
            Books—stories—are lights.
            They do not ignore the darkness but scatter it with light. 
          They illuminate life, ignite dreams, expand our creativity, and tickle our imaginations. They connect us together in ways that nothing else can—in ways that nothing ever can.
            They crisscross time and space and people and cultures and ages like nothing else and allow us to share and experience and touch something magical with another human being—with millions of other human beings.
            They tell us all that life was, and is, and can be, and is meant to be. 
            And libraries’–beautiful, lovely, sweet-smelling (you know the smell I’m talking about), magical—have always been places filled with that light of ideas, people, culture, knowledge, and creativity. A place that brings us humans—in all our Facebooking and blogging and watching, and texting—together. Libraries are like lighthouses—shining out across a stormy, unpredictable sea.
            Sunday, the main character in my book A Summer of Sundays, knows the power of libraries to bring communities together. Through remodeling the local library, she sees friendships healed. Friendships made.  Ideas, secrets, and lives exchanged. And she discovers herself and where she fits in her world.  
            So where are those glowing porch lights now?
            They’re there.
            They’re called The Little Free Libraries.
            Have you heard of them?
            They are beginning to pop up everywhere—in the middle of neighborhoods, by the entrance to dog parks, on the corners of intersections, by the swing sets at playgrounds.
            The Little Free Libraries form a movement that has sprung up from those book lovers who know the power of books and whose desire is to connect people with literature, with information, with stories, and with humanity itself.
            And these little libraries are giving people what libraries have always given and offered and shared—a place to bring ideas together, strengthen communities, and enrich lives.
            They are small boxes—almost like large birdhouses—with books inside. You take a book in exchange for a book that you slip inside for someone else. Sharing with one another.
            Some neighborhoods decide on a theme for their library: mysteries, children’s books, books by a specific author, sci-fi books, books on a specific culture, books that all have a title that starts with a letter of the alphabet.
            These Little Free Libraries are the new porch lights.
            People are beginning to emerge from their houses, from behind their screens, and gather around these libraries, chatting with one another about books. And chatting about books (as it always has) brings up ideas and discussions, laughter and sharing, friendships and creativity—bringing people together.
            It’s really extraordinary, isn’t it? This power of light—the power of books—the power of libraries—in not only the great, wide world, but in our own small world of a few neighborhood blocks.
            Visit www.littlefreelibrary.org and find out how you can turn on your own glowing porch light in your neighborhood. Then watch what happens.  

About Lindsay Eland: I was born in Cincinnati, grew up in various towns in Pennsylvania, went to college in Oklahoma, and found home in Breckenridge, Colorado. I love to write, read, hike, drink espresso, and attempt to keep my plants alive. I am a laugher and a dreamer. Mix all these together and you get me–a lucky writer of middle grade fiction.  Lindsay is the author of Scones and Sensibility and A Summer of Sundays, both published by Egmont USA.