Andrea Beaty’s first Middle Grade novel, Cicada Summer, is sure to please many young readers. It seems just the right book for girls who may not yet be convinced they are great readers, and at the same time, the story has enough depth to hook serious bookworms too.
Lily is crazy about Nancy Drew and fancies herself quite the sleuth in her tiny hometown. She secrets away all of the Nancy Drew mysteries from her school library, keeping them in “protective custody” to read late at night when the mood strikes her. In fact, secrets are Lily’s specialty. She has been working on keeping a big secret for some time, and is doing a pretty good job of it until sneaky, not-very-nice-at-all Tinny Bridges shows up in Olena. Tinny makes trouble wherever she goes, and it seems that Lily’s the only one to notice. Two mystery threads run through this book, one related to Lily’s past and the other to Tinny’s. As the summer passes, both girls find that what’s in the past sometimes has a way of creeping into the present.
So there’s some good mystery here. A little humour. Broken and on-the-way-to-mending hearts. Some great girl gumption. I was reminded of Deborah Wiles and Joan Bauer’s books because of the homey tone and atmosphere, the quiet lessons learned, and the quirky small-town characters. I suppose you could say that a read-alike might be Each Little Bird that Sings. Cicada Summer is a story about the choices kids make, and how those choices can create powerful changes in many lives – good and bad.
One eensy quibble/idea. I felt this book needed a recipe in it. I can’t really explain why. Perhaps it was Beaty’s convincing evocation of a sweltering summer that made me want to find a Lemonade recipe tucked in the back of the book. How ’bout Old Lady Blackberry Cobbler? Cream Soda Floats? (I wonder if I could find work as a story recipe consultant? There’s a dream job…) I picture Cicada Summer in the hands of many hammock-bound children this summer, and a tall stack of Nancy Drews within easy reach.
Cicada Summer is available May 2008.