I usually come across a good summer book for middle grade readers each year, and this year is no exception.
Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson is a wonderful middle grade novel for summer - or any time of year.
Annabel is spending the summer in the country with her parents. This summer, however, is different than others. She no longer has to follow her mother's structured schedule full of practicing her instrument and playing tennis. Annabel has had a rough year. She's suffered anxiety attacks and doesn't fit in with her friends anymore.
This summer is supposed to be one of freedom.
Annie meets California, a girl her age, who is visiting her grandfather for the summer. She's there to take care of him since he is undergoing cancer treatment.
California wants her mother to reunite with her grandfather, and wants to find the ponies that her mom talks about having as a girl. The two girls set out to find the ponies which must be somewhere on the vast farmland.
As the summer progresses and Annie and California get to know each other, Annie often wonders at some of the explanations California gives, knowing that they aren't completely honest.
However, when Annie finally realizes what California is hiding, she is devastated.
As a reader, even though I knew where this story was heading, I hoped that there would be a happily ever after. This is a beautiful story of friendship and hope, equal to the Bridge of Terabithea in heartbreak and tears. I am excited to have my fifth graders read this, anxious to talk with them about it.