Review: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn - cover shows a girl holding a bait fishing pole standing back-to-back with a younger boy holding a shark toy on a beach.

Caterpillar Summer
Gillian McDunn
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published April 2, 2019

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

Caterpillar Summer on Goodreads

My Review

Oh my gosh THIS BOOK! I loved so many things. Cat begins fishing because she’s hoping it will be the key to relationships that matter to her, but then she falls in love with fishing. It becomes something she needs, an outlet and interest that’s just for her. I absolutely identified with this whole emotional process because it’s how I came to love fly fishing so much.

When my grandfather passed away, I watched my dad grieve and had this sudden realization that someday, I will be in his shoes. Someday he’ll be gone. I’d grown up going out in the boat fishing with him, and I still treasure those memories. But at that point, I hadn’t fished since I was maybe twelve or thirteen years old. So I decided to learn to fly fish, partly because it seemed more fun than lure fishing and partly because I wanted to spend more time with my dad, who also loves fly fishing.

Then I fell in love with fishing all over again. And it’s funny, I think that love for fishing has been as great a bond as the activity itself. It’s really fun to have those shared experiences and moments together, but there’s also something to having that passion and sharing in the excitement and celebration of a great day on the water, or the fight of bringing in a big fish.

Anyway, all that to say that CATERPILLAR SUMMER really captures those magical properties of fishing. The way it can make you fall in love with it, and the way it can bring people together. And the way it can be the thing you need without you knowing you needed it.

I think the relationships in the story are expertly done. Cat’s relationship with her brother and the battle between her love for him, her fears about something happening to him, and the frustration and disappointment every time her own needs or desires get overlooked feel so real and understandable.

I love the quiet way Cat’s grandmother notices the way Cat feels and eases some of the burden. She says something to Cat at one point about how keeping a family together can be a quiet kind of work– and it’s exactly the validation Cat needs at that moment. She realizes she has an ally and that someone really sees her.

Cat’s grandfather, too, is an amazing character. Gruff and distant at first, but such a tender heart underneath all of that. And I love that it’s nature walks and fishing that bring him and Cat together and help them open their hearts to one another.

The progression of Cat’s relationship with her mom is powerful, too. Cat has to find real courage to speak up, to voice things she knew her mom wouldn’t want to hear. She risks disappointing or angering her, both of which Cat really fears.

I feel like I could go on and on about this book. So many things about it are so well done and really resonated with me. I hope CATERPILLAR SUMMER gets the awards and recognition it’s due. I know it will go on my shelf as one of my treasured books, one I’m sure I’ll go back and read again and again.

Readers who enjoyed ELSIE MAE HAS SOMETHING TO SAY by Nancy Cavanaugh or THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS by Ann Braden absolutely need to read CATERPILLAR SUMMER.

Caterpillar Summer on Amazon

Cat’s mom (and grandparents) are white and her dad is black. She talks briefly about how sometimes people don’t realize they’re all the same family because of the difference in the way they look. Cat’s brother has some sensory issues, and is maybe autistic (the story doesn’t specify).

Recommended for ages 8 up.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content

Violent Content

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of CATERPILLAR SUMMER in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which don’t cost the reader anything when used. They help cover the costs of running this blog and occasionally provide an efficient caffeine delivery system for the blogger.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

Comments are closed.