Summer Break Time
School is out… so, now what?!
The end of the school session means graduation parties, vacation excursions, summer camp, swimming, BBQs, iced beverages, beach picnics, and road trips. As I toss around my own schedule, I am reminded that the dog days of summer zip by quickly but there was a time when the days seemed to stretch on forever as though they were endless. No matter where your journey takes you over the summer, do try to be safe and spread a little kindness along the way.
So, what’s everyone up to during the school break? Share your special hobbies and creative ideas for beating the summer doldrums in the Leave a Reply box at the bottom of this Blog. Will it be full of adventure in hopes of eluding boredom or spans of deliberate do-nothing days? For me, I tend to look at the clock a little less and take more self-care time.
A bit of history on the subject… but only because my brain was alerted and pushed me to dig deeper into consuming just a mere sliver about Old Glory, our American flag. I won’t go on and on regarding ALL the history but here’s a touch of trivia.
Why celebrate our flag every June 14th of all days?
The holiday commemorates the date in 1777 when the United States of America approved the design of its first national flag. Since that time, there have been several flag variations but the current design was approved in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower… over 60 years ago.
So, on this glorious day, fly a flag, thank a veteran for their service to our country, or recite “I, pledge allegiance…” and pause for a grateful moment. Reflect on the freedom this symbol represents.
The House at Strone by Claire Nielson
First things first, I would be negligent in not mentioning that the hand-sketched illustrations throughout were created by the author, including the detailed artwork on the vibrant cover. It drew me in as though a challenge had been presented. What was the significance of such a grand structure along the shores at Strone? Much to my delight, it didn’t take long for me to discover the answer. The first few pages clutched my desire to read on by intricately laying out the close-knit family dynamic. A touch of nostalgia sunk in quickly and allowed my curious appetite to chomp down firmly on a very relatable subject. I was transported back to when my sister, brother, and I were first left on our own without adult supervision. We’ve got this! Uh-huh?!
The story takes place in 1947 with the residual fallout from World War II hovering around as though victory hadn’t been declared quite some time ago. Households were still dependent upon rations distributed via government-issued coupons like in previous embattled years. With the school year nearing its end, the children suddenly learn the disturbing news about their mother’s illness and pending hospital treatments. Their father must make a difficult decision. Should he send the youngsters as planned to their grandfather’s seaside home at Strone on their own, or keep them home while he works and cares for their mother? With their grandfather’s recent passing, he explains over the children’s cries of disappointment that they’d be too far away if they should need his help and he couldn’t be certain how long their mother’s treatments would take.
“No, no, that wouldn’t do at all. You’re far too young to be left on your own. We’d be worried sick about you.”Excerpt from Chapter One, The House at Strone
With relentless debate and pleading, the eldest 13-year-old, Elsa, convinces her father of her readiness for this new responsibility. After all, she already watches them on her own most of the time and then gently reminds him that the neighbors they’ve known for years are right next door. With a reluctant nod of approval, the plans are underway.
After an arduous day’s journey, the exhausted children sight the familiar outline of the family estate. They begrudgingly drag their luggage up the final steep incline wishing someone, anyone, would rush down and help them the rest of the way. They pause a few chilling seconds and glare up at the dark, empty house. A noticeable dreariness has crept over the once-lively estate. With a sense of sadness emphasized by the senior’s passing, a warm greeting at this very moment would have indeed been a welcomed sight! Shaking her head of such nonsense, Elsa turns the worn knob and enters the cold uninviting abode. The others follow closely behind. A rush of uncertainty grabs them as they stop dead in their tracks. Gulp. The place has been ransacked and stripped of its essential household goods. But who would do such a thing in this coastal quaint village? They begin to think maybe this wasn’t such a terrific idea after all!
Elsa comforts Claire and John, her two younger siblings, then rapidly snaps into action by initiating a game — a scavenger hunt of sorts to find as many useful items as possible. The teen’s objective is to continue to stay at the house on their own without getting their parents involved. She inwardly pleads for wisdom. With buckets of creativity, the youngsters gather enough sundries to make do for their first night’s stay. Exhausted from the travel, and then scouring for necessities, the youngest, Claire hopes she’ll be able to fall asleep without seeing any ghosts. Although the other two would never admit being scared, Claire could eye their uneasiness.
As the days press on, the children are put through a series of rigorous, and dangerous trials. They find themselves entrenched in foraging for food in the unkempt garden along with succumbing to the awkward (but very much needed) offers of goods from their friendly neighbors. When they encounter an unruly local bully, they assume he must have stolen John’s beloved bike, a gift from his grandfather. It sets a string of events in motion with bending twists. Intrigue and slivers of suspense prompted me to root for the children’s success. I even smiled when the newborn kittens were secretly introduced to Claire; what a timely softening from the daily hardships they were enduring.
There is a persistent theme throughout — a feeling of hope and perseverance. I cheered for Elsa as she navigated the coming-of-age tribulations, niggling self-doubt, and unforeseen hiccups. And I was also taken in by the youngest, little Claire, who often choked back her frazzled, tender emotions. Through her growth spurts, she proved to be a tad strong-willed and even displayed the occasional defiance.
Overwrought with worry about their mother’s health and with little to no time to think about the strain of it all, Elsa stays the course. It was a swift but delightful development to see Elsa find a compassionate side in lieu of the newly assumed strict demeanor. She hoped she hadn’t driven them beyond their capabilities in her guardianship role. Would her sturdy yet positive example be enough or would despair send them all packing?
The House at Strone is superbly written and I would happily recommend it to avid MG readers and all pre-teens in middle school. Perhaps there’s an inclination by Author Nielson to create a book series with these adorable characters. (hint hint)
Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is just a simple no-nonsense perspective of my experience in reading The House at Strone.
Happy * Father’s * Day
Thank you to all the dads, stepdads, mentors, and male role models who inspire strength, courage, and character-building in every child.
The power of a dad in a child’s life is unmatched.Unknown
Thank you for stopping by and spending a bit of time with us.