Review of Gossamer Summer

Gossamer SummerGossamer Summer
by H. M. Bouwman
Intermediate    Atheneum    192 pp.
5/23    9781665912532    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781665912556    $10.99

It’s summer, and ten-year-old Jojo and her three sisters have to entertain themselves because their romance-novel writer mom has a book due (“Mom on deadline was not nearly as fun as Mom not on deadline”). Banished outside, with their new friend, Theo, they make the most of their books, art supplies, and snacks. Things get more interesting, however, when a fairy turns up. Roland, “small and greenish and personlike,” is demanding and very grubby. The story turns off-kilter and cheeky as we realize that Roland and his world are simultaneously real and a product of Jojo’s storytelling imagination. (There’s also an authorial voice that breaks through occasionally.) Cue trouble in fairyland and kids to the rescue. Bouwman pulls off this energetic slipperiness with such confidence and brio that we almost don’t notice that the underlying story is one of bereavement, as the girls are coping with the death of their grandmother. The writing is a complete delight of originality and specificity: “It was an odd kind of flapping, not the sound that bird wings make in our world, but the sound that wings without flesh or feathers might make—sort of like twigs swooshing quickly through the air. But more creaky, like wicker.” Reliably funny, never once twee, clever in the way of kids and fairies, and authentically moving.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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