Reviews for Caterpillar Summer

by Gillian McDunn

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A sudden change in vacation plans leads to an unforgettable summer for 11-year-old Cat and her younger brother, Chicken, who has special needs.Cat and Chicken are the namesakes of characters in their mother's picture-book series, Caterpillar Chicken. In the books, Cat looks out for Chicken and does everything she can to make him happy. This is true in real life as well: Chicken has special needs (undefined, but he is sensitive to noise and touch, has difficulty governing himself, and has a tendency toward fixations), and Cat is responsible for taking care of him while their mother works. Cat and Chicken are biracial; their mother is white and their late father was black. Cat can't wait to visit her best friend, Rishi, in Atlanta during summer vacation. But when Rishi's parents are suddenly needed in India, Cat and Chicken find themselves staying on Gingerbread Island, North Carolina, with their mother's parentsgrandparents they've never met before. Cat's mother is tight-lipped about why she's estranged from her parents, but Cat is determined to protect Chicken, like she always does. The poignant story of Cat's unexpected adventures on Gingerbread Island is told with tenderness and a keen sense of what can makeand breakfamily bonds. While race isn't central to the story, it's also not incidental. Through debut author McDunn's vivid storytelling, issues related to race and bias are deftly woven into the larger narrative. An engrossing, heartwarming, beautifully written debut about building and rebuilding family ties. (Fiction. 8-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal
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Gr 3-6-Rising sixth-grader Caterpillar has a lot on her mind. She has a younger brother on the autism spectrum, her father died recently, and her mother's artistic temperament is leaving Cat with a lot of responsibility at a young age. Cat is excited to go to Atlanta for the summer so that she can spend time with her best friend and just enjoy being a kid. All this changes when her best friend has a family emergency that takes him to India. Cat finds herself on a small island in North Carolina with grandparents she's never met and she doesn't know the real reason her mom has kept her away from her grandparents. Over the course of the summer, Cat learns to love her mothers's parents. She also learns to let go of some of her feelings of always needing to be there for her brother by allowing others to help. While Caterpillar and her brother are both biracial, this is not a critical component of the plot. Readers may question whether race was a factor in the degeneration of Cat's mother's relationship with her own parents, but this turns out not to be the case. There are minor references to Caterpillar's struggle with her hair and her white mother's inability to style it effectively. The representation in this case is important from the standpoint of biracial visibility. Though this is not an uncommon family structure, it is seen infrequently in middle grade fiction. VERDICT A sweet summer story that middle grade readers will appreciate.-Kristin Lee -Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly
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Intensely responsible Cat, 11, looks after her seven-year old brother, Chicken, whose unique stressors and focused intensity require patience and attention, particularly since the death of their father. When the family's summer plans unexpectedly fall through, the biracial siblings are sent to stay with their estranged maternal grandparents, Macon and Lily, on an island off the North Carolina coast, while their mother-who writes children's books loosely based on her children's lives-works in Georgia. Cat's curiosity about the troubled history between her mother and Macon brings her insecurities about her often overwhelming role as Chicken's caretaker to the fore, leading to a summer of difficult conversations and necessary change in family dynamics. Cat's developing relationship with her grandparents, shifting role in Chicken's life, and growth toward a more honest relationship with her mother are deeply moving in their realism, as are Cat's burgeoning self-awareness and self-advocacy. Set against a cushioning backdrop of fishing, beach trips, and ice cream, McDunn's poignant, gratifying debut about friendship and family encourages both empathy and hope. Ages 8-12. Agent: Marietta B. Zacker, Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency. (Apr.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.