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Summerhouse Time    by Eileen Spinelli & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff order for
Summerhouse Time
by Eileen Spinelli
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

It is June, the end of the school year, as Sophie Bolton counts down - 'Fifty-nine days to go' until Summerhouse Time - the annual reunion with her extended family. The joy of past reunions flashes through her mind, as she anticipates seeing cousin Colleen again, their romps, talks, and sharing. But, when the date arrives, Sophie's encounter with fourteen-year old Colleen does not feel the same. So much for 'two peas in a pod'.

An aloof Colleen chooses to room alone, while Sophie ends up with five-year old cousin Tammy, a chatterbox. Reassurance comes when 'Aunt Nancy pulls me aside / into the laundry room. / 'Honey, I'm really sorry / about Colleen.' / 'Is she mad at me?' I ask. / 'She's mad at the world.' / 'How come?' / 'I don't know. / Uncle Joe and I keep asking / what's wrong. / And she keeps saying, 'Nothing'.'

Sophie is on her own cloud, experiencing a Twitch about a New Boy in the neighborhood. It takes a lot of Brainstorming on Sophie's part to work out how to meet him. Without Mom and Dad available to talk with, Sophie confides: 'I turn to Orange the cat, / who is curled up / on my bed. / I say it to her: / 'Orange, / I think I'm in love - / sort of.' Sophie climbs a tree in pursuit of Orange. 'When he came outside / I hollered, 'Help!' / and pretended to be afraid / to climb down. / And true to the name / on his T-shirt, / he climbed up after me.' Ah, they finally meet and his name is Jimmy Gabbiano. Sophie's trip to the store supplies her with a map and flag of Italy, and books to learn Italian. 'I open the book. / The first page says: 'La casa - house.' ... I write words I don't know / on Post-its and stick them / everywhere.'

Eileen Spinelli's Summerhouse Time is written in lyrical verse, and sub-sectioned with titles appropriate to the topic of the moment in Sophie's summer life: First Saturday In June; Dad's Full-Time Job; An Outing With Grandpop, and Cozy's Crab Shack. Joanne Lew-Vriethoff's charming black-and-white illustrations accompany Spinelli's fine-spun words of family reunions, stories by the campfire, growing-up experiences, new interests and young romances. Summerhouse Time enraptured me, recalling times with my own very large family, in all seasons.

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