Summer is sometimes a pleasant unraveling: our schedule frays a bit by mid-June; by July the ends are loose and fuzzy; by August, what routine we have left is shapeless, a heap of thread unpicked by swim lessons, late picnics at the park, and impromptu evening walks. During the summer, it is hard to want to do anything at the same time every day, so I always give a lot of thought (some may say too much thought) to each summer’s read-aloud.
It has to be good enough to be worth gathering for. It must be: engaging (for all of us). Funny. Fun to read aloud. Exciting enough that the girls ask for it even when they’re so tired they sort of slide down the couch as we read.
Last summer we read The Wilderking Trilogy; the summer before it, The Penderwicks. Previous summers, we’ve read Harry Potter, and The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. And this summer is, for us, The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson.
This is historical fiction at it’s finest: Eugene Appleton lives a predictable life in a town on the Coloradan frontier. He’s the local pastor’s kid who longs for a life of antics like that of his dime-store novel hero, Dead-Eye Dan. And he gets his wish when Tumbleweed Thompson, son of a traveling snake-oil man, drifts through town one summer, trailing outlaws and adventure behind him. Glenn McCarty has fun with the language and tells a story worth sharing.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve closed this book and heard one daughter or another sigh, “I love this book.” That’s the best endorsement I can give it, really. It’s fun to read aloud, and all four daughters adore it. Joe Sutphin’s illustrations (The Wingfeather Saga) are nothing to sneeze at either: they’re reminiscent of Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price, but with a style all their own. I know it’s late in the game to recommend a perfect summer read-aloud, but there you have it: bookmark this one for next summer, or start it now and keep a bit of summer close when the cold months start closing in. It’s your call.
The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson
Glenn McCarty; Joe Sutphin (2019)