Summer of the Gypsy Moths

GetAttachment-4.aspxHow long can two little girls hide a dead old aunt, as they manage the Linger Longer Cottage Colony in Cape Cod in Sara Pennypacker’s tween novel Summer of the Gypsy Moths? With humor, compassion, and a dog named Treb, Pennypacker’s heroine combines the heart of a child with the maturity of an adult.

When Stella’s spirited mother runs off to find happiness, she leaves Stella with her great-aunt Louise, caretaker for a string of summer cottages on the Cape. Louise decides to foster a Portuguese girl, Angel, as a companion and friend for the little girl. No one expects Louise to die, and when she does, the young girls decide that life alone would be better than the unknown possibilities of an orphan home – and they know how to keep a secret.

Once you get past the macabre scenes of a dead body and the unlikely burial, the tale of friendship and responsibility is endearing, and you will be cheering for the girls to succeed. Stella’s penchant for Heloise’s Helpful Hints substitutes for motherly advice as the two girls clean the cottages between guests; at times, those helpful hints offer funny possibilities – who knew Febreze laundry odor eliminator would help with the smell of a dead body. The girls set up a baby-sitting service, dig for clams on the beach, and try to stop an infestation of caterpillars in blueberry bushes planted years ago by Stella’s mom. The ending has everyone living happily ever after, with the two wily girls demonstrating their resourcefulness.

Pennypacker has been compared to Beverly Cleary with growing-up stories that have a message – for both adults and children. With moments that will have you aching for their loneliness and laughing at their gumption, Summer of the Gypsy Moths is worth the read.

Rose of Fire – short story by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Clever marketing isn’t necessary for one of  Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s books, but who can resist a free story? Rose of Fire, a  Zafón short story, is a free download on iBooks, and ends not only with a tantalizing cliffhanger, but also continues with the first two chapters of  Zafón’s latest Barcelona adventure – The Prisoner of Heaven – a tease that’s hard to resist.

Rose of Fire reveals the origin of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the library from which a fortunate patron can take only one book in a lifetime. This secret repository is the premise for Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novels: The Shadow of the Wind, its prequel The Angel’s Game; and now the sequel The Prisoner of Heaven.

If you’ve read Shadow of the Wind, familiar characters reappear – Fermin Romero de Torres, friend and former spy, and Daniel Sempere, now grown and still at the bookstore. The Prisoner of Heaven is the continuation of Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind – more intrigue, mystery, and danger in a Gothic tale- masked by the politics of the Franco dictatorship.

Zafón is one of my favorite authors and Shadow of the Wind is at the top of my books to recommend. The Prisoner of Heaven promises to continue the excitement, and, of course, I had to buy it after reading those first “free” chapters.