Emily's life is predictable and normal. The most exciting thing that ever happens to her is being home along for a few hours. But then her aunt becomes ill and she and her parents move to the country, to a big, old house to care for her four young nieces and nephews. She's attending a new school for the first time and is determined to be someone different, someone new. She's spurred on by the discovery of a mysterious box and hopes to make a real friend.
But the first person she meets is prickly Kate Bloomfield. Kate has one adult sister, so is virtually an only child. She sticks our in the suburban/rural area like a sore thumb; her father is Jewish, but doesn't practice, her parents are both very "modern" and run a bookstore. Kate is confused and often bitter and feels like she is unwanted by her family and doesn't fit in anywhere.
Between Emily's mother's struggles to adjust to life with four rambunctious children, and all the emergencies and catastrophes that ensue, both Kate and Emily slowly change and grow, discussing who they are, writing poetry, finding what they have in common as well as what's different about their lives. Kate especially questions her parents' religious choices and her own identity, while Emily is more sure of herself even when she makes missteps. The girls work their way through their own family issues as well as their religious differences, figuring out how to be more than casual friends and learning that they both still have a lot of changes to expect in their life.
Who will read this? Fans of Tara Altebrando's middle grade books and other quiet, reflective stories of girls coming of age.
Bring it back? Absolutely. The book addresses questions like religion and identity not often touched on in middle grade titles and sketches in a dreamy summer with a slowly growing friendship with an expert hand. The story is timeless, needing no updating. The only thing I would change is, much though I love her classic illustrations, Joan Sandin's art should probably be swapped out for something a little more contemporary, at least on the cover.
Availability? Sadly, this has been out of print since the 70s and it's unlikely to ever see the light of day in the US again. Periodically, I check to see if Canada has brought out any new or reissued Jean Little titles, so that's a faint possibility some day!