Bookworm: ‘This Summer’ is just right for your next long weekend

Thinking about getting a dog, read these titles first

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“That Summer”

  • By Jennifer Weiner
  • c.2021, Atria
  • $28, $37 Canada; 432 pages
"That Summer" author Jennifer Weiner

This summer is going to be the best one ever. You've got dozens of things planned: time with friends and family, a weekend getaway or two, cookouts, parades, a neighborhood party, your schedule is packed already. Yep, this will be a summer you'll never forget; as in the new novel, “That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner, that alone could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Daisy Shoemaker knew she shouldn't snoop but she couldn't help it: when she started getting emails that were meant for a woman with a slightly different (but very similar) address, she couldn't help but peek.

The woman named Diana led such an exciting life, trips, meetings, fun.

All Daisy did, it seemed, was to live a rather staid life with her husband, Hal, and their fourteen-year-old, Beatrice. Yes, she taught cooking classes when anyone would hire her but Hal liked to remind her how he expected her to make their house a home, so that was her priority: cooking, cleaning, she did Hal's errands, planned their annual family Cape Cod trip, tried to enjoy her privilege, and felt weird because everyone in his social circle was a professor, politician, or banker and she hadn't even finished college.

"That Summer" by Jennifer Weiner

So, on the evening when she replied wrong email and got a Sorry! from Diana, Daisy was intrigued by the ensuing, light-hearted e-versation. It was nice to make a new friend ...

Diana Starling had been just fifteen that one summer.

Her father had been against her taking the job as an au pair on the Cape, but Diana begged to go until her parents relented. Her sisters promised sun and boys, and wasn't that romantic? Diana would go to Cape Cod for a job, but she'd surely come home with a boyfriend; after all, an older boy called Poe invited her to his end-of-summer bonfire, which was a good sign.

She'd tried to avoid alcohol, but that was impossible.

She tried to stay out of trouble.

She tried, but she'd never forget the bonfire or the sand dunes or three boys...

You're scoffing, aren't you? Scoffing, because you think you know where this novel is going, right now, right from the start. And you're quite a bit wrong.

With shades of #MeToo and other events from the recent past, author Jennifer Weiner tells a story that twists and twinkles like wind chimes on the back deck, with two heroines that nicely complement one another and a teenage character who's made to love. Everything that happens is told mostly through their points-of-view, and time has its own frame in this tale: readers may be taken back decades, or things might move in a unique montage-like way that holds your interest while quickly filling in those tiny details that make a novel like this such a joy to read.

Indeed, “This Summer” is just right for your next long weekend, your book club's pick, or that vacation you've been planning. Look for it, and let it become a part of the best summer ever.

More:Bookworm: ‘Blue Star’ will put you on the edge of your seat

Books about dogs

  • For kids ages 3 to 12
  • Various authors and illustrators
  • Various publishers and prices

This summer, you have big plans.

You're going to play in the back yard and in the park with your friends. You'll ride your bike, maybe go on a weekend trip, play video games, and you'll hang out with your dog. Or maybe you'll get a dog. Or you can read about them in these great books ...

New books about Dogs for kids ages 3 to 12.

The littlest book-lover (ages 3-4) will enjoy the imagination-boosting power of “If I Were a Dog” by Joanna Cotler (Philomel). Using a spare few words and quiet, very simple drawings, this book invites kids to think about how life would be if they had four legs, a tail, long ears, silky fur, and paws. It also reminds young children in many subtle ways that dogs and kids aren't so different, in the end.

For active kids ages 5-to-7, “Hugo and the Impossible Thing” by Renee Felice Smith and Chris Gabriel, illustrated by Sydney Hanson (Flamingo Books) is a totally possible thing to enjoy. It's the story of Hugo, a smart, brave little bulldog whose animal friends wonder what's beyond “The Impossible Thing” in the forest. Nobody knows because (duh) it's impossible, right? But is it really? This is a great story for children who need a good between-school-year confidence boost, for those who need a lesson in cooperation, and for hate-to-sit kids who love to climb and swim.

Though it's a picture book and will be found with other little-kid books in your bookstore and library, “Saving Stella” by Bassel Abou Fakher and Deborah Blumentahal, illustrated by Nadine Kaadan (Bloomsbury Children) is really a book for older children, ages 7-9. It's a true story of a dog whose owner escapes war in Syria but he has to leave his beloved Stella behind. He never forgets her, and when he learns that Stella needs to leave Syria, too, the story takes a turn and becomes a thrilling drama. Beware: the artwork is heart-wrenching and so is the tale, so give it to older kids, please, and help them read the afternotes.

And finally, for the 9-and-up animal lover – particularly one with allergies – there's “Allergic” by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter (Scholastic Graphix). It's the story of Maggie, whose family is about to adopt a puppy. Maggie has two bratty twin brothers, her mom is going to have a baby, and so Maggie might have the dog all to herself (yay!) but before they can take The Perfect Puppy home, Maggie has an allergic reaction.

At first, she's mad that her body is betraying her. Then she tries to come up with a pet that doesn't have fur or feathers, but nothing works. Her brothers have each other. Mom and dad will have the baby soon. And this graphic novel is the book your comic-obsessed animal-lover will want to have, too.

If these don't quite fit, then ask your librarian or bookseller for more pet-positive books for your young reader because, for a lot of kids, summer with a dog (or a dog book) is always best.

More:Bookworm: ‘Music of Bees’ sweet, with no big sting

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.