Just as we’ve all been hating saying goodbye to summer, along comes the book, Summer of L.U.C.K.,to prolong it a bit, and then put a ribbon on the season for us!

This is the official professional image.  The artistic pic at the top of this page is by Karen Salkin.

This is the official professional image. The artistic pic at the top of this page is by Karen Salkin.

As some of you may know, I was an elementary school teacher the second I got out of college. In that capacity, and as the daughter of Speech and English teachers, (and just as a human being,) I know the power of books for children. They’re so important for every aspect of their development.

Last year, when I visited a friend who had recently given birth, and one of the gifts I brought was a book, I thought my friend would think I was nuts to give a book to a month-old baby. But another pal there, who had also been a teacher, was impressed—she mentioned that reading to babies is paramount to their language, thinking, and social skills as they go along in life.

In all honesty, my expertise in children’s literature is mostly for the very young, (e.g. The Cat In The Hat and Pat The Bunny.) I’m also familiar with a good number of teen-age novels, such as the Nancy Drew series and my all-time favorite, the very old-fashioned Double Date. But I’ve never gotten into stories for the tween gang; I really haven’t found tons of fun age-appropriate narratives for that group.

So when my eleven-year-old friend, Marcus Josselyn, and I recently discovered the brand new Summer of L.U.C.K., by first time author, Laura Segal Stegman, I was thrilled. (So was his mom, my good friend Amanda, with whom I share all my secrets!) The official description, which we all agree with, is that the story “is about three kids finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival.” I love all those components, especially the carnival setting since I was in a circus just out of my teens. The entire time I was reading it, I could visualize every physical description. Laura really knows how to paint a picture!

And there are so many other wonderful aspects to Summer of L.U.C.K., too. First of all, even though it doesn’t feature bullying, per se, reading this scenario may make kids more sensitive to not bully others. (Basically, there are just a couple of less-than-nice girls in the tale. But mean kids might recognize their own behavior a bit, and realize that’s not the way to go.)

Marcus Jocelyn about to start reading Summer of L.U.C.K. Photo by Amanda Hazel.

Marcus Jocelyn about to start reading Summer of L.U.C.K. Photo by Amanda Hazel.

And it shows kids, and grown-ups, as well, that no one is ever really alone in their insecurities, and that every single one of us is going through something. That’s a valuable take-away from a fun story.

Another valuable message in Summer of L.U.C.K. is to try to do good for others. I always say that you wind-up getting so much out of those kindnesses yourself, if only the warmth in your soul, so it was wonderful to see the youngsters in this adventure finding that out for themselves.

The main character is Darby, a girl who stutters. (I want to play her if it becomes a movie!) The timing for the debut of this book is perfect–stuttering was just having its moment this summer, because of the young boy who gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention about how Presidential candidate Joe Biden, a fellow stutterer, helped him overcome his pain about his situation. That makes Summer of L.U.C.K. especially appropriate for right now.

By the way, stuttering should be no big deal. Here’s my one little tale about it: An old pal, the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen in my life, stuttered, (and perhaps still does,) but it never mattered to any of us who knew him. He’s darling, has the best and equally-gorgeous wife ever, a lovely mother, an almost-as-gorgeous brother, and a trio of beautiful, healthy, athletic children, (one who’s actually writing a paper on stuttering right now!) He hasn’t let stuttering stop him. (Perhaps he’s had private pain about it, as we all do about something, but it was never obvious when I saw him a lot, coincidentally enough, always in summer!) [Note: There are specific places to go to get help with stuttering, but I’m not an expert in the area. If you’re interested in the topic, maybe you should google Joe Biden and see what he did in the past to help himself get through it.]

Karen Salkin, sans her usual glamour, being surprised while reading Summer of L.U.C.K. on her deck in this cooler weather.  Photo by Mr. X.

Karen Salkin, sans her usual glamour, being surprised while reading Summer of L.U.C.K. on her deck in this cooler weather. Photo by Mr. X.

On a personal note, this is how one of my childhood friends so kindly told her young daughter about how I was back in elementary school: “Karen was a brain—a fat, ugly, little brain!” Delightful, right? Thank goodness for me, I didn’t know that I was “fat and ugly,” (two words that should never be used on anyone,) at the age that I was; I just assumed that I was good-looking. When I saw the photos my father took of me, which showed that I was a tad chubby with sort-of a funny face, I just chalked it up to that he was a bad photographer! How’s that for confidence?!

But, unfortunately, few kids think like that. They envision everything about them as being much worse than it actually is! So books like this one are very much needed, especially for the vulnerable middle-grade set.

Kids go through so much these days, especially because of all the information afforded by technology. It’s a breeding ground for low self-esteem. I feel that reading about the situations that the main characters in Summer of L.U.C.K. go through can help youngsters immensely in dealing with all their feelings.

Marcus Jocelyn again, this time finishing-up Summer of L.U.C.K., fully engrossed in the tale. Photo by Amanda Hazel.

Marcus Jocelyn again, this time finishing-up Summer of L.U.C.K., fully engrossed in the tale. Photo by Amanda Hazel.

That brings me to what a great book it is to read with their parents or a group of their peers. I wonder if kids have Book Clubs like grown-ups do. If not, they should make one just to discuss Summer of L.U.C.K.! Marcus, Amanda, and I formed our own little club, with Marcus saying that he “liked how Darby made great new friends at summer camp despite her stutter.” Now isn’t that the way the world should be? He added that “it’s really cool that they started the L.U.C.K. club and went on adventures.” Amanda commented, “I like that my son is reading, and enjoying, something that’s not just another graphic novel.” I hear her on that one!

I was worried that perhaps the recent death (before the story begins) of the father of one of the main characters would be hard for tweens, but Marcus didn’t mention it, so I think it’s all good. And it might be a godsend for a reader who has lost someone his-or-herself. This book deals with that topic gently, so it should let those children know that they’re far from alone in that situation.

As someone who always wants people to speak well, (which needs to begin in childhood,) I really appreciate all the great vocabulary in this novel, such as “calliope” and “queasy with mortification.” And I love all the creative monikers, for the characters and the camp groups and areas. It would take me a couple of years to come up with just a few of those!

Like the Harry Potter series, I feel that Summer of L.U.C.K. is as much for adults as it is for tweens and young teens. In addition to all that excellent vocabulary, the life lessons are sooo worthwhile. The main message I got from it, even as a (semi) grown-up, is to have faith and not give up too easily. That’s something I have yet to learn myself, but this story has started me on that path.

Author of Summer of L.U.C.K., Laura Segal Stedman.

Author of Summer of L.U.C.K., Laura Segal Stedman.

And, while we can’t all happen upon a magic carnival for ourselves, (or can we?,) the book will inspire most to find the magic within themselves. (I swear, since I read it, I keep thinking that I’m finding magical messages everywhere, from getting four aces right off the bat in a game of solitaire, to feeling that a television ad is speaking just to me!)

For most of my age-appropriate years, my parents begged me to go to camp, (which always struck me as curious,) but I never wanted to. Summer of L.U.C.K. made me rethink that choice for the first time in my life! I certainly would have wanted to go to this one!

Interestingly, I got choked-up towards the end. I think I would have done so even if I was still a chronological kid, instead of the emotional one that I am. I have a feeling most readers will wind-up with at least a small knot in his or her throat.

On top of all that worthwhileness, Ms. Stegman was kind enough to publish a preview of the sequel right at the end of this one, which gives us something to look forward to next summer! And don’t we all need that boost for 2021 right about now?

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1 Comment

  1. Simone Olivier on

    Liebe Karen,
    I love this review!!! It makes me smile and wonder what else is happening in that book. I am going to order it NOW!!!

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