Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Top Pick this Summer

As summer comes to its all-too-familiar close and I head back to the classroom, I take with me a sense of delight. The gift of time afforded me the opportunity to become lost in literature; reading bleary-eyed well into the night on more than one occasion. I’ve had the pleasure to read wonderful new literature for children this summer. By my accounts I’ve read more than forty books, including several professional resources, since school was dismissed in June. Few left me wanting, and one in particular soared above the rest.

“The Year the Swallows Came Early” by Kathryn Fitzmaurice is a beautifully written story about families, friendship and forgiveness. Set in Southern California (a great connection for my students), it celebrates the resiliency of eleven year-old Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson, a budding chef with aspirations of attending culinary school. Just as her horoscope advises her to “expect the unexpected”, Groovy’s routine existence is shaken. Her father is sent off to jail at the request of her mother. Frankie, Groovy’s long time friend, experiences upheaval of his own when a long-absent mother suddenly returns. And the ever-reliable timepiece that is Mother Nature skips a beat as the annual migration of the swallows to Groovy’s town occurs earlier than it should.

The Southern California setting, Groovy’s honesty, and her family dynamic will connect my students with her story on a variety of levels. Fitzmaurice has created an indelible character in Groovy; through her voice, her compassion, and her resilience. Adults and children alike will be immediately drawn to her unshakable spirit.

Recently, I attended a one-day networking session with fellow teachers and I could not help but nestle my copy of “Swallows” into my book bag before leaving the house. As we collaborated and discussed best practice strategies I looked for an opportunity to introduce the novel, and went on to read the chapter entitled “Jasmine Tea with Limes”:

“He didn’t watch where he was going,” I said. Tears rolled down my cheeks. “He ruined it, Mama. He didn’t watch, and now it’s ruined.” And I started crying like there was no tomorrow. But it wasn’t the dandelion that made me so sad. It was how I was like the dandelion, minding my own business, waiting to grow and be something. And he hadn’t seen me waiting.”

If you’re a teacher (like me) funds are in short supply at the start of the school year. And if you’re like Desiderius Erasmus (and all too often me as well):

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.

Happy Reading!


  1. After listening to you read the small bit of this story to us at Friday's meeting, I ordered this book on Amazon. I think my third grade students will enjoy this and I hope that it will inspire some writing from them (and possibly from me).

  2. Thank you for such a lovely post. I'm so happy you enjoyed the book!