"My mom screamed at my dad last night. Like SCREAMED. At my dad. They were outside in the car, but I could hear her through my window. My aunt and uncle left. Then my mom stood outside by herself for a long time. So today my dad is golfing and my mom is spending quiet time in her room."
The Wallace family has been coming to Awago Beach since Rose was a five-year-old. She is now twelve, dealing with the many issues that seem to plague young people...infatuation, family ills, waning friendship, growing up to learn things about the world you would rather not know.
While it is not her own story; Mariko Tamaki carefully reconstructs the cottage life that she experienced while growing up. She knows what draws families back each and every year; she shares that feeling on every page of this remarkable new graphic novel. Just go and ask your friends who spent childhood summers at the lake about it...in fact, you will likely have to go to the lake to talk with them about it. This is a perfect book to share with them!
There is so much here to see and appreciate, in both the text and the artwork. The two cousins earlier worked together to create Skim (Groundwood, 2010). I was really interested to read an interview in The New Yorker magazine this month that focused on their research for such a story:
“We spent a lot of time spying on kids, wherever we would find them,” Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the authors of the graphic novel “This One Summer,” said about the research process for their book...
“I’m a huge fan of talk, and am a chronic eavesdropper,” Mariko confided. She provided the script and worked closely with her cousin Jillian, the artist. “I love riding the subway or sitting in malls listening to people gossip or argue on the phone. Mostly, when I eavesdrop in schools, I hear a lot of girls talking about other people, which I’m sure was a big influence on the plot of this book...
Jillian, the artist, who grew up in Western Canada, says she did “extensive research. It was really important to infuse the sensory elements into the story. My job is to make things specific and visceral. I take notes and keep an ear out whenever I am near kids to pick up the tics and nuances, but one thing I really took away from this exercise is how loud they are.”
Fans will quickly be drawn into the story of two young girls as they navigate the many events that are part of this particular summer. They have been meeting every summer for some time, and have many shared experiences. They fall into old habits, including walks and visits to the general store for treats, due especially to Rose's interest in one of the older boys who works there. She even convinces Windy that they are old enough to rent horror DVDs from the meagre pickings; perhaps in an effort to impress him. The movies may scare them witless (and even cause nightmares for Windy), but they return for more. Being scared by a movie has nothing on the other things that are happening at Rose's house.
Her parents are in distress. Her mother is suffering from a deep depression, which we learn is the result of infertility and miscarriage a year ago...it is very difficult to watch Rose try to deal with her father being away, her mother being absent from life, and her conflicted feelings about not being enough of a family for them. Those scenes are dramatic and powerful.
A secondary plot involves the young man Rose finds so intriguing, and a teen pregnancy. Rose seems unduly interested, while Windy could care less. The drama that is created is central to Rose's formative summer as she carefully watches all that unfolds. Always watchful, she is the heart of this fine book.
We are better for having read it! Savor every page for all that the illustrations reveal, and share it with young adults who love the graphic novel format. They will be forever grateful as they share this real, emotional journey with two girls whose relationship is not likely to be the same again. Exceptional!