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Gemini Summer    by Iain Lawrence order for
Gemini Summer
by Iain Lawrence
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Iain Lawrence's Gemini Summer features an unusual family. Charlie 'Old Man River' is a World War II veteran, who pumps out septic tanks for a living, while Flo is a Southern belle wannabe. They and their two sons, Beau and Danny, live 'in an old gray house in a quiet valley named Hog's Hollow' in the middle of a city. Beau's passion is the space program and his hero is astronaut Gus Grissom, while Danny desperately wants a dog - his mother always refuses, saying a city's no place for a dog.

Life is pretty good for the boys though they're called names because of their father's poop-mobile. They're never apart, making a fort in the woods, and riding bikes together to the swimming pool and park. The only fly in the ointment is an unlikeable neighbor, Creepy Colvig and his son Dopey, who 'had a huge empty head with no brains inside it', was 'meaner than mean', hated Danny River, and 'guarded his end of the Hollow like a troll'. Gradually, trouble escalates between the Rivers and the Colvigs, who're soon feuding like Hatfields and McCoys.

Then, in the summer of 1964, Charlie River inexplicably starts digging up his front lawn, and he keeps at it in all his free time thereafter. The reason? The Cold War - he's building a fallout shelter for his family and he's a man on a mission. But he talks to the boys about a trip, maybe to Cape Canaveral in Florida, the next summer, when four Gemini flights will be launched (Beau calls it Gemini summer). Beau even writes to Gus Grissom. Then tragedy strikes. Soon, 'everything had changed, but nothing looked any different.'

Danny's miserable until a very special stray enters his life. He's slow to get attached to the black and white pup, but after he does, he's devastated when it looks like he'll lose Rocket. He takes action that leads to a cross-country adventure, notoriety, and a flight with Gus Grissom ... when 'a dog's black eyes were like the endless darkness he'd seen from the very top of the world's blue sky.' Don't miss Gemini Summer, a heartbreaking, heartwarming story.

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