HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Frozen Summer
Author: Mary Jane Auch
Cover Illustrator: Matthew Archambault
Publisher: Yearling, republished 2000
Related website: http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Auch, Mary Jane. Frozen Summer (published in 1998 by Henry Holt and Company Inc., 115 W. 18th St., New York City, NY 10011; republished in 2000 by Dell Yearling Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). It is June of 1816, and twelve year old Remembrance “Mem” Nye lives with her Papa Jeremiah, Mama Aurelia, and five year old brother Joshua, in a one room cabin in the Genesee Country of western New York. Having come from Connecticut the year before, the family is going through a cold, hard summer in their new home because there is barely any food since Papa’s crops were destroyed by the late season frosts. Mem’s Mama has never gotten used to their new home, and after she gives birth to baby Lily, it is even harder for her to cope as she becomes depressed. Papa sees that something is mentally wrong with his wife, so he puts Mem in charge of caring for the baby, her younger brother, and their sick Mama.
Then one frigid, stormy night the worst happens. Mem returns home from a chore in town to find that Mama and Lily are gone. Can the two be found? How will Papa react? And what will happen to Mem and the family as a whole? As to language, there are a few colloquial euphemisms (tarnation, blasted), and some profanity (“what in God’s name” and “Good Lord” as exclamations), but no cursing. Some might feel that the book is realistic by giving “attention to the unromantic details of pioneer life,” and apparently it is rich in historical accuracy. However, the mother’s instability and the father’s angry reaction in slapping Mem may be rather unsettling for some younger children. There is also the religious element. All the religious people are portrayed as whack jobs. Granted, there are and always have been religious whack jobs, but a little real “Christian charity” from someone might have been nice too.
Mem sums up the tone of the book when she whispers to her baby sister, “You feel safe in my arms, but what you don’t know is that our family is completely falling apart.” If you find reading stories about a family falling apart to be entertaining, then you should like this book. However, one reviewer called it “really bleak and depressing!” It is amazing how Auch can take such a downer of a story and still come up with a little ray of hope at the end. This book is said to be a “sequel to Journey to Nowhere” (1997), which tells how in the spring of 1815, eleven year old Mem and her family set off in a covered wagon from their farm in Connecticut to the western New York wilderness. Another reviewer wrote, “I found both this book and The Journey to Nowhere quite morose with little joy to redeem them.” The third volume of the trilogy is The Road to Home, in which thirteen year old Mem and family are returning to her grandmother’s house, but her father joins the crew that is digging the Erie Canal, and she soon realizes that he will not take them back to Connecticut.