Tuesday, October 20, 2015

One Outstanding Tween Read: This One Summer

This One Summer (First Second, 2014) by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki rocked the publishing, library, and literary world being the first graphic novel to receive the Caldecott Honor for “Most Distinguished American Picture Book for Children” and the Printz Honor for “Excellence in Literature for Young Adults.”

Unfortunately, it has also been the subject of book challenges since receiving these honors. Below, examine This One Summer’s merits, issues of concern, and teaching elements to empower educators, parents, and librarians to make their own decisions (for ages 12+). For an even more detailed review with suggestions and Common Core lessons suggestions, please visit: Using Graphic Novels in Education: This One Summer at cbldf.org.


page1Told in warm prose and exquisite monochromatic blue images, This One Summer delicately balances the nostalgic power of summer traditions with the often harsh and intruding lessons of life.

It embraces readers of all ages as two tween girls, local townie teens, and one set of parents all tangle in the delicate balances of friendships and relationships, grapple with the pains of growing up, deal with the torments of depression and of wanted and unwanted pregnancies, and cope with the heartbreaks and hopes of life. The breathtaking and powerful art work with the prose delicately weaving the troubles and traumas of Rose’s summer at Awago Beach.

page2Themes embraced and delicately tackled in This One Summer include:
  • The tugs of friendship as Rose and Windy (a year and a half younger than Rose), face adolescence at different paces and stages;
  • The pains and torments of depression felt by individuals and their families;
  • The importance and frailties of communication;
  • The challenges of dealing with unwanted pregnancies and failing at wanted ones;
  • The stresses and responsibilities of teen sexuality and group pressure.

In This One Summer, we meet tweens fantasizing about what their developing breasts will look like. We learn how one family deals with the mother’s growing depression. We watch along with Rose and Windy as we observe, overhear, and deal with older teens. We see how a long, comfortable summer friendship is stressed and strained by a one-and-a-half-year age gap between the girls as they enter adolescence. And finally, we observe (along with Rose and Windy) how older teens and adults deal with their own relationships and sexuality.


Elements of Concern
This One Summer earned a Caldecott Honor, which covers children’s book for readers up to age 14, putting the book at the high end of the age spectrum for the honor. First Second recommends this book for ages 12 and up because it contains mature content. Despite having rightfully received this honor, there may be some confusion by consumers unfamiliar with this book and who believe the Caldecott honor is given exclusively to books for younger readers. To clarify, please note that there is some profanity, especially dealing with the older teen characters (the girls are labeled “sluts”). There is also a teen pregnancy and the burgeoning questions of sex and sexuality that the tweens experience in parallel subplots.

page7That said, these issues are sensitively and realistically developed through a warmly complex and penetrating story that delicately deals with questions young teens have. Furthermore, the characters are true to life, flaws and all. While mature content may cause some concern, this book is wonderfully appropriate for mature tweens and young teens as they explore adolescence, sexuality, and the increasingly complex relationships they find themselves facing.

Plot, Theme, and Character Development
  • Plot and or discuss how Windy and Rose are both growing together and growing apart. Have students compare how they react to the horror movies, to the teens outside of Brewster’s, and even to what they want to do each day and how they play.
  • Create a Venn diagram representing how Windy and Rose’s personalities, likes, and dislikes overlap. Discuss the similarities and differences between the two while discussing what makes theirs such a solid friendship.
  • Plot and chart each of the subplot stories. Evaluate what is told through prose and what is revealed through images in each of the subplots.
  • Analyze how Alice depression is depicted in the novel. Have students brainstorm how Rose might deal with it.
  • Compare and contrast how Rose, Windy, Jenny, and Dunc each deal with issues of teen pregnancy. Discuss real-life options kids have under these circumstances.
  Critical Reading and Making Inferences
  • Discuss the Tamakis’ use of nature as metaphor.
  • Discuss the parents’ roles in this story. Would you consider them good parents? Loving parents? Why or why not? Have students cite evidence from the story for their conclusions.
  • Discuss the role Brewster’s convenience story plays in this story. Discuss the role the lake plays in this story.
  • At the end of the book, Alice discusses her pregnancy and miscarriage with Windy’s mom, not realizing Rose is still awake (and listening) in the other room. Windy’s mom responds, “But Alice. You should tell her. Kids are… they get it.” Alice responds, “I know.” Discuss why Alice hasn’t yet told Rose, and debate whether she will in the near future or not.

Language, Literature and Language Usage
  • Search, find, and discuss the Tamakis’ use of metaphor throughout the book.
  • Discuss and explain Mariko Tamaki’s use of idiom, imagery, and humor. For example:
    • On page 9: While driving towards Awago Beach they pass Estelles’ Turkey hatchery and dad says. “Hyuk hyuk! Lookiee here. I say, it’s tha Turkey Hatchery! Official birthplace of one Rose Abigail Wallace! Brings a tear to my eye.”
    • On page 12: Evan, Rose’s dad says, “Awago is a place where beer grows on trees and everyone can sleep until eleven.”
    • On pages 94-96: Evan holds up an eaten cob of corn and asks “Do you know that they call this here… Awago toilet paper.” Discuss they imagery and why Evan may have said this.
    • On page 169: “When my mom is mad at my dad, because my dad won’t do something, or forgets to do something, she says, ‘You can say what you want, Evan, but I’m not holding my breath.’”
    • On page 300: “Yes. Well. Mother Nature isn’t always the nicest person in the world…”
Cultural Diversity, Civic Responsibilities, and Social Issues
  • This story takes place at Awago Beach, somewhere in Canada that has a Huron Village. Research and discuss the Hurons and their culture. Look at maps and posit what small beach villages were once located in Huron territory.
  • Discuss options and responsibilities associated with teen pregnancies.
Modes of Storytelling and Visual Literacy
  • Compare and contrast the Tamakis’ use of visual and verbal metaphor and foreshadowing.
  • Chart, evaluate, and discuss the use of visual symbolism. For example:
    • the spread with the milkweed pods;
    • repeated images of Rose and her family walking, showing only their feet;
    • repeated images of Rose and Windy in the lake.
  • While the art in this series is in blue monochrome, it has a rich, engaging feel to it. Discuss Jillian Tamaki’s use of texture and detail.
  • Chart and compare the textured images versus the simpler ones. Is there a pattern to their use? Discuss how he changes the textures and details not only to emphasize particular points, but also keep the reader engaged.
  • Throughout the book, there are two-page wordless spreads (for example pages 20-21, 44-45, 46-47, 47-48, 70-71, 82-83,106-107, 138-139,160-161,182-183,198-199, 222-223, 226-230, 244-245, and 292-293). Discuss their purpose. Discuss the meaning and the emotions they convey. Discuss the Tamakis’ choice to use these spreads when and where they do.
  • On page 27, Windy plays with her gummy feet (over six panels). What can you tell about her from these panels?
  • On page 97, Evan comes over to Alice and kisses the side of her cheek as she’s just washing a bowl. The bowl slips from her hand and shatters. What does this sequence of panels convey?
Paired Reading Suggestions
  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura: About an 11-year-old girl who struggles to face and understand an untimely loss, first through escapism and then gradually through acceptance.
  • Chiggers by Hope Larson: About growing up, friendships, funs and foils of summer camp.
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume: About the trials and tribulations of growing up, particularly for adolescent girls.
  • Chinese Born American by Gene Luen Yang: Another Caldecott Honor winner about a teenager’s need to fit in.
  • Before You Go by James Preller: About Jude, who takes a summer job flipping burgers at Jones Beach while dealing with his mother who is kept in a darkened room ever since his little sister drowned several years before.
  • The Color of Earth Trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa: Like This One Summer, the Color of Earth Trilogy is a beautifully balanced blend of prose, poetry, and art that tactfully and sensitively deals with a girl’s growth from adolescence to adulthood.

Links and Resources:


  1. Hi Meryl

    Wow what an extensive post you've written for this weeks challenging letter!!
    I don't read books anymore ..and am used to it now but reading your post makes me feel a little sad, cause i would like to be able to read a good book again.

    Wishing you lots of reading fun!
    Thank you for this lovely entry and participating ofcourse ;-) .

    Have a nice abc-day/week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

  2. Thank you for this very detailed OVERVIEW of the book.
    It sounds interesting and the graphics are wonderful.

  3. Book challenges tend to make me grumpy. Good stuff.


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