Title: The Great Good Summer
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Pages: 218 pages
Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2015.
God is alive and well in Loomer, Texas, so I don’t know why Mama had to go all the way to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to find him, or to find herself, either.
Daddy says she went to get some of the sadness out of her system. He says it like it should be as easy as getting a soda stain out of a skirt. A little scrub, a little soak, one quick run through the machine—good as new and no big deal.
Every day since Mama left, Daddy’s been trying to convince me that things aren’t all that bad, even though Mama’s become a Holy Roller and has disappeared with a preacher who calls himself Hallelujah Dave. Meanwhile I’ve been trying to convince Daddy that things are truly and indeed all that bad. Hallelujah Dave, for goodness’ sake. (1)
Ivy Green’s mother has followed a charismatic preacher named Hallelujah Dave from Loomer, Texas to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle, Florida. Her father seems to think that eventually she will “get it out of her system,” whatever it is, and return to them in her own time. But that isn’t soon enough for Ivy, and with the encouragement of her friend Paul, whose dreams of becoming an astronaut have also been dashed with the closure of the space program. Getting to Florida sounds easy, but the trip is filled with trials and troubles, and it’s not so easy to get to Florida or to get back to Texas.
Every year seems to have its own trend in publishing that no one is able to guess until it’s almost passed. This year, it appears to be ultra-religious sects and communes. I don’t think any of the titles have become blockbuster best sellers, but here are some titles that have come to my attention recently. Liz Garton Scanlon’s first attempt at a novel is an exception to this list because it’s geared for a younger audience. It’s been said that children need these books because they need a variety of experiences to be able to empathize and sympathize with the rest of humanity. Some kids struggle to see themselves portrayed in publishing because they are a minority in some way compared to the majority of children. Ivy’s specific family situation is definitely one that only a small minority of children experience, but her insistence that her mother will return is probably typical of children who suffer from the absence, abandonment, or loss of a parent, regardless of how it happens. In this way, I may be able to convince children to read it, by book talking it as “Ivy’s mother has left, and Ivy is determined to find her and bring her back.”
Ivy’s voice is filled with old world, southern twang that sounds much older than her age. In a way, she is naïve and sheltered and frustrated with her failing faith in her father’s ability to set things right. In other ways, she and Paul are self-sufficient and street smart, having enough knowledge to research the trip, pay for a ticket, avoid detection from almost everyone, and maintain hope that things will work out. But they are also extremely lucky in their journey, and the ending is so pie in the sky happy that younger readers might think that all stories will end happily if you have enough hope and heart.