Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Summerhouse Time

Summerhouse Time

Eileen Spinelli
Illustrator:  Joanne Lew-Vriethoff 
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2007   ISBN: 978-0375840616

Sophie is looking forward to what her family calls “Summerhouse Time.” It is that time in August when she and her family go to the rented beach house in New Jersey for a whole month, and they all look forward to it. Unfortunately Summerhouse Time is still many days away. In the meantime she tries not to notice the heat (her house has no air conditioning), and she realizes she may be in love for the first time. This is a very startling realization for Sophie, and she is not altogether sure what she is supposed to do about it. In between thinking about how she might get to know the New Boy better Sophie goes to her little cousin’s birthday party, and she worries about her father who is behaving very strangely.

Then, joy of joys, Sophie finds a way to meet the New Boy, and he is acquires a name, Jimmy Gabbiano. Sophie’s next project is to learn some Italian. After all Jimmy’s family was Italian once wasn’t? Soon Sophie’s speech is peppered with Italian words and she and Jimmy are definitely good friends and perhaps something more?

At last it is the first of August and the family are off to the beach. Sophie can hardly wait to get there. She can hardly wait to see her cousin Colleen. However when they arrive, Colleen gives Sophie the cold shoulder in the most heartless way. Sophie is heartbroken. What has she done? Why is Colleen rejecting her? Is this Summerhouse Time not going to be like all those other wonderful Summerhouse Times after all?

In this unique book Eileen Spinelli has created dozens of blank verse vignettes describing summer days and events that come together to tell the story of a young girl’s summer; a summer during which she falls in love for the first time, and when relationships within her family begin to change. Some of the things she learns are painful, and some are wonderful, and as the weeks of the Summerhouse Time unfold, Sophie, in the midst of her colorful family, begins to grow up – just a little.