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Gillian McDunn has lived in California, Missouri, and North Carolina, and is a fan of both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. Like Cat, Gillian grew up as the big sister to a younger brother with special needs. She lives near Raleigh, NC, with her family. This is her first book.
Photo credit: Laura Case
July 2019 Debut of the Month | Caterpillar Summer is one of those apparently quiet books that actually have a huge and lasting impact on readers. It’s the story of Cat - Caterpillar - and her little brother Henry, nicknamed Chicken, and the three weeks they spend on holiday with the grandparents they’ve never met before on the North Carolina coast. The children’s father is dead and their mum works hard as a children’s book illustrator and lecturers to support them. Cat feels the weight of responsibility to help and in particular to look after her little brother who is autistic. When their planned holiday with friends falls through Mum has no option but to take them to stay with her parents, though she hasn’t spoken to her father since Cat was born. Living with Lily and Macon by the beach, Cat finds time to make friends and with her grandma taking care of Chicken, to think about what she needs. She’s also able to work out the issues between her mum and her grandad, who she’s come to love, and effect a reconciliation. The story is beautifully told, the landscapes both interior and exterior, perfectly described and it manages to be authentic and hopeful. Highly recommended. Andersen Press are particularly good at finding contemporary novels that give children the opportunity to consider what really matters - see also Susin Nielsen and Aoife Walsh.
Cat is the glue holding her family together. When her little brother Chicken has a meltdown, she knows just how to calm him, whether it's scratching his back or reading his favourite book. They've always had a special bond. But with their mum working extra hard after their dad's death, Cat is struggling to keep everything afloat. When Cat and Chicken unexpectedly end up spending the summer with the grandparents they've never met, Cat suddenly has the space to be a kid again. Gradually, she discovers that days on Gingerbread Island are full of fishing, fireflies and new friendships - as well as a lifetime of family secrets. Could this summer be Cat's chance to bring her fractured family together again?