In Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s book The Year the Swallows Came Early, eleven-year-old Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson loves cooking. She’s writing her own cookbook and plans to attend culinary arts school someday if she can afford it. Even her best friend Frankie’s stepbrother, who owns a local store, gives her some secret family recipes to go in her special cookbook.
Things start going wrong when her daddy is arrested as they’re walking through town. Since no one will tell Groovy why, she hurries to her momma’s salon to find out. Momma is in no hurry to let Groovy in on the details, but when she finally does explain, the truth breaks Groovy’s heart. Groovy’s sorrow for her daddy evolves into anger and Groovy turns her back on everything that makes her life special: her friends, her family, and her cooking. Nothing matters anymore. But when life brings unexpected surprises, Groovy discovers that there is more to every story. Sure, sometimes people just mess up, but sometimes the situation is out of their control. Either way, Groovy needs to decide if forgiveness is worth the risk.
Having recently read Because of Winn-Dixie, this book felt quite similar. Bother were in first person and about young girls, so I guess that’s why. This book is a great deal longer, but easy to read and entertaining. It’s a character-driven novel, as well. No edge-of-your-seat action adventure in this one. I liked Groovy and the way she saw the world. I liked how she thought her mama’s obsession with horoscopes were just superstitions and didn’t apply her mama’s believes to her own.
I still don’t know why her father was in jail. From what I can figure out, what he did was low and selfish, but completely within his rights as Groovy’s father. I wish the author would have given me a little bit more there to help with the realism of Groovy’s dad’s sentencing, because it didn’t make any sense to me.
My favorite part in the book is when Groovy shows her chocolate-covered strawberries to Marisol, a girl she thought was a bit snobby about her artistic talents. But since Marisol had shared about her love of drawing, Groovy took a chance to reveal a bit of her heart—her love of cooking—and in doing so, Groovy found a great friend. Sometimes friendship is a risk, but isn’t it always a risk worth taking? And if that’s true, isn’t forgiveness a risk worth taking, as well?
Age Range: 8-12
Part of a Series: No
Publisher: The Bowen Press (a division of Harper Collins)
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