CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 28 . . . . March 23, 2012
Charlie, finishing sixth grade, is disappointed when his parents tell him they are staying in his home city of Montreal this summer on a “stay-cation”. His family has always spent the summer in exciting faraway places, having adventures. Nevertheless, Charlie looks for things to do in the city (“This summer would be the first time I could decide what I wanted to do”) and ends up having a very interesting summer, after all, searching for lost pets, exploring the city at night, stowing away in a delivery truck, being rescued from “the storm of the century”, and, of course, playing baseball in the park.
Summer in the City is a sequel to Travels with My Family and On the Road Again!, but the reader doesn’t need to be familiar with the previous works to enjoy this affectionate tribute to (life in) the city of Montreal, the quirkiness you find in your own family, and the pleasures of summer. The book consists of several independent events which are listed chronologically (in the table of contents) as “My Adventures”. These range from everyday occurrences, like going to the laundromat or getting a cat down from a tree, to realistic moments of near-disaster, such as getting on the wrong bus and ending up in an unfamiliar place, or almost losing your younger brother in the subway. Charlie is funny, practical, sometimes contemplative; his energetic, happy-go-lucky younger brother Max is the catalyst for a good deal of the adventures the two go through, while their parents are benevolently present around half of the time. The brothers interact a good deal with the people around them, shopkeepers, pet owners, neighbors (young and old), etc. The supporting characters reflect the diversity of people in a large city and show a liveliness and depth which makes the story more believable, and, at the same time, more exciting.
There is a slightly jerky change at the beginning of the book: from the first person present tense, as Charlie sits in his hot classroom, to the first person past tense as he sits at the supper table on the same night, after which the story continues smoothly in the past tense. Text is interspersed with expressive black-and-white illustrations.
Saeyong Kim is studying for a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia, BC.
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