As an avid reader and lifelong book nerd, I was overjoyed to discover one way to acquire new books prior to their release via the site LibraryThing. You can receive free books to review, and it’s basically a bibliophile’s best friend (in a lottery system sort of way, at least!). So far I’ve received two books this way, including Mary Ellen Bramwell’s Dandelion Summer.
Dandelion Summer is bound to be a page-turning mystery for the 8-12 set. The plot is thoroughly developed with foreshadowing to help young sleuths solve the mystery along with protagonist Madelyn. The writing is accessible and the cast inclusive of those with disabilities in a non-patronizing way. However, despite being set in the 1970s with flashbacks to the 1940s, racial diversity is absent.
This book’s organization should also appeal to younger readers, with chapters being organized by weeks and then days in the summer, with flashbacks along the way. Some readers may be put off by Madelyn’s vacillating between behaving as a much older teen or a much younger child, depending on the situation. She is clearly struggling to know her place as her role in the family changes, which is a major plot point, but certain passages had me wondering if this character was pure wishful thinking (or at least I don’t know any teens who’d invite a boy over to help mow the neighbor’s yard…).
Hard themes are explored in this novel, including illiteracy, war, and family relationships. There are some great messages along the lines of trusting your family (in both directions, not just teens trusting parents), of anyone being able to help anyone else regardless of age, and doing the right thing even when it’s lucrative to not.
As an adult reader, the pacing was a little slow but coupled with the small amount of suspense, younger readers may appreciate the time to absorb details and hints to mentally tuck away until later.
This would be a fun book for parents and kids to read simultaneously and discuss, much like Madelyn and her father do with The Hobbit. This book is full of likable characters with their own flaws who work together toward a common goal. The themes are primarily positive and there isn’t any bad language or inappropriate scenes. It’s an easy, enjoyable read.