Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Summer of the Swans (1971)

(Just as an aside, this book was written the year I was born.)

This was the worst summer ever! According to 14-year-old Sara.  She is gong through the very self-conscious time of early teen hood. She and her older sister and younger brother have been raised by her aunt since her mother died and her father lives several hours away.  She doesn't think her father really cares about them.  Also, her wants are often put aside for her special needs brother, Charlie. Charlie is mostly non-verbal and has the mental capacity of a young child, but physically functions fine.

One day swans come to the lake near their home and they go to see them.  Charlie is fascinated by the swans and doesn't want to leave when it is time to go. That night Charlie gets up and decides to go see the swans, but gets lost on the way. 

Sara, although often frustrated by Charlie, has a special bond with him and knows he is in trouble.  The police are called in, search parties form and fan out.  But it is Sara who finds Charlie late that afternoon. 

Sara's older sister trying to get her to not obsess about her appearance.  "I have perfectly terrible hands--look at my fingers--only I don't go around all the time saying, 'Everybody, look at my stubby fingers, I have stubby fingers, everybody,' to make people notice.  You should just ignore things that are wrong with you.  The truth is everyone else is so worried about what's wrong with them..." (p. 3)

"A picture came into her mind of the laughing, curly-headed man with the broken tooth in the photograph album, and she suddenly saw life as a series of huge, uneven steps, and she saw herself on the steps,...and she had just taken an enormous step up out of the shadows, and she was standing, waiting, and there were other steps in front of her, so that she could go as high as the sky, and she saw Charlie on a flight of small difficult steps, and her father down at the bottom of some steps, just sitting and not trying to go further.  She saw everyone she knew on those blinding white steps and for a moment everything was clearer than it had ever been." (p. 128)

Byars, Betsy.  The Summer of the Swans.  Puffin Books, 1970. 

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