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Summer of the SkunksReview - Summer of the Skunks
by Wilmoth Foreman
Front Street Press, 2003
Review by Diana Pederson
Jul 11th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 28)

Let me start this review by saving I'm in my 50's trying to put myself into the minds of a family of children ranging from age 16 down. This was a challenging book for me to read. There appear to be several basic themes to this book. They are listed in what I perceive to be their order of importance. Your children may disagree.

First, a skunk family moves in under the house and it is up to the older children to figure out how to get rid of them without "stinking up" the entire house.

Second, the young teens and preteens learn that they can't have their parents' undivided attention due to the father's work schedule and the mother's responsibility for tending the younger siblings and taking care of the home.

Third, the entire family has to cope with a mentally ill relative coming to stay for a few weeks.

Fourth, the children deal with both hiding and "taking care" of a homeless man that takes up residence on their land.

Fifth, a younger brother watches the homeless man make some "moves on" his sister -- obviously an inappropriate relationship. Although the older man has enough sense to prevent anything from happening, it does cause the brother some serious concern.

Recommendation:

Since the story is rather short, I don't want to reveal much more about this book. I strongly urge parents to carefully read this book before sharing it with your children. Be prepared for any of life's major questions that the story may prompt your children to ask.

I would suggest that the family sit down and read it together, particularly if there are preteens in the house beginning to dream of being a teenager and coping with all the sexual tension and other growing up concerns of this age. I believe this story would give the family a good chance to talk about what is expected if certain things happen to them. Issues such as homelessness and mentally ill people surround all of us today. This book will let you teach your children how you want them to respond to these situations if similar events should happen to or within your family.

Example: Parents could talk to their children about the importance of not hiding the fact that a stranger is living on their property. They could also deal with topics such as inappropriate relationships between teenagers and adults of the opposite sex. Another real-life lesson from this book is teaching your children that mental illness does exist. Adults with depression and other mental illnesses do not always behave in appropriate ways.

This book was easy to read and would be understood by most upper elementary and middle school aged children. High school students will probably think they are too adult to read this story but I strongly believe even this age group would learn some valuable lessons.

 

2003 Diana Pederson

Diana Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.


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