There is a great section in our library with seasonal books that I like to look through when I have a chance (read: I'm not running around after my kids stating over and over, "You need to be quiet in a library! Sshhh!! Sshhh! SSHHH!!!!!"). A few weeks ago I perused the fall section and found Summer's End by Maribeth Boelts. It is now my official "favorite book of Summer 2010," and perhaps will be one of my favorites of the year.
My instinct was to find books about starting school since Hadley will be in preschool this year. However, Hadley isn't anxious at all about going to school. If there is anything she's concerned about it is that she won't be able to return to school, or that she won't stay in school for as long as she likes. I didn't want to read a book to her that might focus on someone being nervous about school, but I do like to read stories that mark time, and Summer's End describes the end of summer beautifully. "The locusts are back, buzzing, and Great-Grandpa says that it means six weeks until the frost comes, and that means summer is almost over, and that means school is almost here." It always seemed that when the locusts came around it was August, the hottest part of summer, and I remember thinking as I heard them buzz that school would be starting soon. And even though the main character, Jill, is not particularly looking forward to starting school, she marks the end of summer and the preparations she makes for school in a peaceful, nostalgic way.
Jill mourns the fact that she has to wear new shoes, "black ones with the gold streaks of lightning" and would rather run around with her "summer-tough" feet. Her new school clothes are uncomfortable, and she's not looking forward to making sure she is careful in them. She gets a haircut and school supplies and has to clean her room before school starts. She tidies up but keeps things she's collected over the summer like shells from the beach and "a snakeskin that the boa constrictor at the petting zoo shed." I stop for a second and ask Hadley what she will remember about her summer. She tells me, "Going to the Blue Mountains." She's talking about the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I agree that was a fun time. I ask her if there is anything else and she says, "Fishing with Grandpa and eating ice-cream."
On the last day of summer, Jill has her friends over and they "swim until the pool is full of grass, and have a war, and play three innings, and eat a root beer popsicle, and by then it is only noon. We sit on the porch and slap at flies and watch how carefully the man across the street mows his lawn. There is nothing left to do." So they begin talking about school. I love how the author subtly writes that Jill and her buddies are getting bored. It reminds me of how I felt at the end of every school year in high school and college. I would be so excited to "just have a job" and no school work, but by the end of the summer I would be itching to use my new pens, and mark up my new notebooks. Even though there is anxiety about what the year would bring, there is excitement, too. And I like how Summer's End shows this.
Jill's little sister is a little apprehensive on the first day of school, so Jill tells her all the neat things her teacher will do with her that year. When they get to school, the girls see their groups of friends and dash over towards them. Jill tells us that she runs "just as fast and as sure as my lightning shoes can carry me."