Rummanah Aasi
Summer of May by Cecilia Galante caught my eye in Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab for the month of April. I wasn't able to finish the book due to a really hectic work and life schedule. I was grateful that my library ordered a copy for the children section and I was able to finish it. Summer of May is a bittersweet, nuanced coming of age story that I really enjoyed.

Description: May feels like she is living alone. Her grandmother, who is depressed about the absence of May’s mother, and her father, who works long hours and is almost never around, live with her. Due to her circumstance and her resentment over having to live in a low-income neighborhood, May often finds herself picking fights and getting into trouble. May crosses the line at the end of her eighth grade when she defaces her least favorite teacher’s classroom. She is given one choice: expulsion or one-on-one summer school with the teacher she most detests. Begrudgingly, May chooses summer school and ultimately learns that her teacher has a secret past, which might just hold the key as to what happened to May's mother.

Review: Maeve, preferred to be called May,  O'Toole is a spunky, hot tempered tween, who holds a lot of grudges. Known for her outbursts and antics at school, her recent target is her English teacher, "Movado the Avocado," who she blames for having to repeat English in summer school. May spends her mornings prepping and re-painting the classroom wall she defaced during the school year and doing writing assignments for her teacher, which allows her to have a lot of time to think. As readers begin to understand May's lonely situation, she builds up tall walls around her and refuses to let people inside. She constantly broods about all the things that make her mad and about all the people who have abandoned her: her old group of friends, her distant father, who now works double shifts and tends to sit on the couch and watch tv when he is home; and her grandmother, who spends her days in bed. We see May's vulnerable side when she thinks about the mother she will never see again and those terrible words she uttered the last time she and her mother were together. Galante does a great job in showing the tightly coiled May and her struggle to remain cool and collective as well as her difficulty to reach to others in a time of need. Though May makes significant progress in her one to one lessons with Ms. Movado, she still falls back to her old ways. May also discovers the unseen sides of her teacher and realizes that Ms. Movado may not be so different from her after all. Never too sappy or too angsty, Galante's prose is just right in uncovering the impact of loss and the importance of making amends. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
3 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Lovely review as usual Rummanah! This one sounds a bit darker than I would have thought based on the age group and the fun illustrated cover, but I like that it's a bit more serious in nature:)

  2. I was also a bit surprised by the book's seriousness compared to the cover. After reading it, the cover doesn't really make sense. May doesn't even own a cat!

  3. Sounds like an interesting MG read. Great review :)

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