This One Summer
This One Summer beautifully captures the feel of a lazy, timeless summer, as written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The season portrayed also quietly marks a transition for Rose, a girl just entering adolescence.
Rose and her parents have gone to Awago Beach, on the shore of a lake, as they do every year. It’s a tradition for them, as is Rose hanging out with the slightly younger neighbor girl Windy. But this time, we can tell that the small age gap between the two is becoming more significant. Rose is intrigued by the boy running the counter of the small convenience store, a teenager with his own problems, while Windy just wants to dance and play and go in the water, the way they always have.
During their trip, Dad’s jokey and goofy, while Mom is reserved, no longer participating in activities she used to like. Rose spends a lot of time with Windy, away from them, observing the older kids and at first, judging them. As time passes, she better understands them, seeing them as people instead of entertainment for her. She also comes to understand that sex doesn’t make you evil, an attitude she’s picked up before it directly affected her.
I haven’t mentioned that absolutely outstanding art. The book is printed in navy ink on cream paper, as you can see in this online preview. But that sequential excerpt doesn’t show the beauty of the establishing shots, full-page images that perfectly capture the feel of a small resort town. There’s natural beauty, yes, but also a tone, a more relaxed pacing of life, that goes along with it. Here, for example, is an early image of the family heading to the cottage, with incredible detail.
I’ve seen complaints that in This One Summer, “nothing happens”. Not true. There’s no mysterious foreigner who changes everything, no one inciting incident to mark a transition, it’s true, but the book says plenty about sex and children and growing up. It’s just that you have to give yourself over to it, to sense the rhythms of the subtle indicators the way you’d ride waves, knowing that the water is deeper and more powerful than we often give it credit for.
At the beginning of the summer, Rose barely knows something’s going on with her parents, who don’t seem to be clicking. By the end, we know her mother’s deep pain — although I’m not clear on whether Rose does. Either way, her exposure to their changes, and the local teens she watches, affect how she’s beginning to accept the coming changes in her own body. Growing up is mental and physical and something more, and this book is an amazing portrait of that gradual process.
Find out more about the authors in this profile of the project. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)