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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Book Review: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Cat always takes care of her little brother Chicken. But he's more high-maintenance than most little brothers. He has a tendency to run off, he's extremely impulsive, and doesn't seem to understand scary things like that cars will run over you and if you can't swim, the ocean will kill you. But Cat doesn't mind; after all she really loves Chicken. And that love has inspired her mom who has written a series of picture books about Cat and Chicken. Which is great because they need the money since Cat's father died. But with Mom working essentially three jobs (college instructor as well and I forget the third, maybe tutor?), it's even more vital for Cat to watch Chicken.

This summer, Mom has gotten a temporary position teaching at a college in Atlanta, where their family's best friends moved last year. It's perfect because Cat and Chicken can stay with the friends all day while Mom works. Except that while they're on their flights from San Francisco, Mom gets a phone call. The Atlanta friends have to fly to India because their grandmother has had a stroke. And no, they're not coming back soon as India is so far away and they have so many family members there they haven't seen in years. So Mom has to come up with a Plan B for Cat and Chicken right away.

She rents a car. And they drive to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where their mom grew up. Cat and Chicken are going to stay with their grandparents, who they've never met. They disapproved when their daughter got married (you wonder for a moment if it's because her husband was black but no, it's because they were too young, they wanted to be artists and to move to San Francisco.) And there's been a rift ever since. Obviously, everyone is nervous going into this situation.

It's not going to be shocking news that everything works out. But you'll have to read the book to find
out! Both Cat and Chicken grow a lot emotionally over the summer, they learn a lot about what it means to be a family and to be a friend and to be part of a community. They learn a lot about their mother that they never knew. And they end up having an unexpectedly great summer, albeit not without its drama.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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