Prather’s Pick: A book about being in the middle
February 18, 2014
Readers may wonder what the letters "J" and "YA" — sometimes found on the outside spine of a book — are all about. Sally Beauchamp, children's librarian at the Moffat County Library, told me that "J" (juvenile) and "YA" (young adult) mean the same thing, but the "J" designation is newer. These letters indicate that the books are intended for fifth through 12th grades. However, it depends on the vocabulary and content of the individual book as to the exact reading level.
Lots of adults read these books, too. Perhaps, like me, they have discovered that "J" and "YA" books tend to have creative storylines and interesting characters and plots — perhaps even more so than adult books.
Books designated as "J" and "YA" are on the main floor of the Craig branch of the Moffat County Library, and the new books are shelved with adult books in a display at the front.
"A Summer of Sundays," by Lindsay Eland, is a "J" book. It's a novel about being stuck in the middle — age-wise.
In the Fowler family, Sunday Annika is the third kid of six. May is the oldest; Emma is next; then there's Sunday, followed by brothers CJ, Bo and Henry. Being a middle child, Sunday often is called by the wrong name. (That includes being called "Butters," the family dog's name.) Almost 12 years old, Sunday feels like being in the middle is "half in and half out, too young and too old." She feels like she's forgotten.
So Sunday has resolved that she's going to do something to make herself stand out this summer in Alma, a town
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4 miles away, where Dad has been remodeling a library. He's been lonely for the family, so he rents a house, packs up his family and they head to Alma. Dad thinks his family can help get the library ready for its reopening.
Along the way, Dad stops at a gas station to fuel up. While her siblings buy snacks and drinks, Sunday visits the restroom. She can't believe her ears when she hears the van doors close and Dad drive off! She's never been completely forgotten like this before.
Sunday waits. Any time now, and they will be back, apologetic for leaving her. They do return, two hours later and not because they realized Sunday was missing. They were just headed the wrong way. Perhaps they wouldn't have stopped at the station again if May hadn't needed to use the restroom. Even when Sunday climbs into the van, no one realizes what happened. Sunday is more resolved than ever to find a way to stand out.
At their rental house in Alma, Sunday again is left out when it comes to choosing bedrooms. She finally finds one that everyone overlooked. It's at the very top of the house, with a window that looks out over the tops of the trees. It's there that Sunday finds some old books, among them a paperback copy of "The Secret Gardens" by Lee Wren. It's an important find in Sunday's plan to "stand out," but the reader doesn't know it yet.
The next day, when Sunday helps her father check out the light bulbs in the basement of the library, she finds a box with a silver lock. Sunday decides to find the key and check out the contents of the box, but she doesn't tell anyone about her find — not then, anyway.
When Sunday meets 11-year-old Jude Zachariah Caleb Trist the Third, she finally has someone she can trust to help her find a way to stand out.
There are other interesting characters in the book, including Ben Folger, a recluse who lives across the field from the Fowlers. Rumors say that he hates kids, eats raw meat and buries the bones of cats he's eaten in the garden. Muzzy and Papa Gil are like Grandma and Grandpa to the kids in town. They run a thrift store and keep a supply of candy for the kids. Much of their time is spent trying to control Mr. Castor, a mischievous dog.
This book has an interesting plot and some fascinating twists and turns. The family dynamics are believable. In short, the book is a great read, and some "middle" readers may be able to identify with Sunday.
"A Summer of Sundays" is published by Egmont USA, 2013. This 328-page novel is $16.99 in hardcover. It also is a new book at the Moffat County Library.
Lindsay Eland lives in Colorado.