Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 7 to 10
- Grade: 2 to 5
- Reading age: 7 to 10
Husband-and-wife team Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel create a sequel to the enormously popular Travels with My Family and On the Road Again! — but with a twist. This time Charlie and his family stay home, and find adventure in their own Montreal neighborhood.
Charlie can’t wait for school to be over. But he’s wondering what particular vacation ordeal his parents have lined up for the family this summer. Canoeing with alligators in Okefenokee? Getting caught in the middle of a revolutionary shootout in Mexico? Or perhaps another trip abroad?
Turns out, this summer the family is staying put, in their hometown. Montreal, Canada. A “staycation,” his parents call it. Charlie is doubtful at first but, ever resourceful, decides that there may be adventures and profit to be had in his own neighborhood.
And there are. A campout in the backyard brings him in contact with more than one kind of wildlife, a sudden summer storm floods the expressway, various pet-sitting gigs turn almost-disastrous, and a baseball game goes awry when various intruders storm the infield — from would-be medieval knights and an over-eager ice-cream vendor to a fly-ball-catching Doberman. Then of course there’s looking after his little brother, Max, who is always a catastrophe-in-the-making.
Key Text Features
key text features
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).
About the authors
MARIE-LOUISE GAY has achieved international acclaim as an author and illustrator of children’s books. She has won many awards, including two Governor General’s awards, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. She has also been nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Marie-Louise’s very popular Stella and Sam series has been translated into more than fifteen languages and is loved by children all over the world. Her recent books include Any Questions? and Short Stories for Little Monsters. She lives in Montreal. marielouisegay.com
David Homel has translated over 30 books, many by Quebec authors. He won the Governor General's Literary Award in translation in 1995 for Why Must a Black Writer Write About Sex? by Dany Laferrière; his translation of Laferrière's How to Make Love to a Negro was nominated in 1988; and he won the prize in 2001 with fellow translator Fred A. Reed for Fairy Wing. His novels, which include Sonya & Jack, Electrical Storms, and The Speaking Cure have been published in several languages. Homel lives in Montreal, Quebec.
- Commended, OLA Best Bet
Excerpt: Summer in the City (illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay; by (author) David Homel)
Was this supposed to be a change? No way. We lived here every day of the year. I knew every detail by heart. I knew the neighbor across the street would come out the next minute to water his lawn. And he did.
This wasn’t going to be a vacation at all. A vacation is when you go somewhere special and see new things and do stuff you’ve never done before. A vacation means going, not staying . . .
“A stay-cation,” I said to Max. “I wonder where Dad got that one.”
“I’d rather go on a go-cation.”
Then he laughed his head off.
* * *
“See that orange truck?” Max whispered. “The guy inside it is an ax murderer.” He ducked his head. “Here he comes. Stay down!”
An ax murderer? What was Max talking about?
The next minute, an ancient truck moved past our house, so slowly I could have beaten it in a foot race. The truck didn’t have any doors, and standing at the steering wheel was a man even more ancient than the truck. The lines on his face were so deep you could have drowned in them. He was steering with one hand and ringing a bell with the other.
The truck was covered with drawings of knives, scissors and axes.
“Look – knives!” Max whispered. “I told you so.”
The truck stopped right in front of our house. I could have explained to Max that it was Tony the Knife Sharpener and not Tony the Bloodthirsty Criminal, but why not have a little fun? After all, there wasn’t anything else to do.
“You’re right,” I said to Max. “We’d better go investigate.”
This is a funny chapter book that celebrates the inquisitive spirit of its little hero and reveals how adventure is around every corner, if we only open our heart.
Vancouver Writers Fest
An upbeat summer idyll likely to draw chuckles whether read alone or aloud.
Summer in the CityIn Summer in the City we are presented with a much more lighthearted book, becoming reacquainted with sixth grader Charlie and his little brother, Max, from Travels with my Family (Groundwood Books, 2006).
Charlie is disappointed when his parents admit that, funds being tight, the family will spend their vacation at home in Montreal instead of visiting one of the more rarefied places his parents usually favour. This does not bode well for an exciting time, especially when Charlie has to keep an eye on Max, who has a penchant for getting into trouble at every turn.
Charlie then recounts, in his own voice and through his own eyes, the adventures that occur that summer. These include efforts to make some holiday money, babysitting a friend’s goldfish (which Max kills with loving kindness), getting caught in the storm of the century, walking dogs and camping out in the garden. While the stories are presented in a fairly staccato style, children will relate to them as they are all well within the realm of possibility and each promises a delightful and predictable disaster.
Despite all his failures and misadventures, one has a lot of respect for Charlie who never loses his sense of humour or his optimism that the next adventure will be the one that will bring him success. With all the setbacks, he seems to maintain an energetic and upbeat approach to life. His laconic, tongue-in-cheek narrative, told in the first person, endears him to us and he manages to make the adventures both comical and suspenseful. While his little brother constantly infuriates him, he really cares about pesky Max — and it is always Charlie’s practicality and ability to think on his feet that rescues them from more dire consequences. Typical of his age, he speaks of his caring parents with tolerant disdain, while recognizing the freedom and security they provide for him as a background from which he can carry out his misadventures!
Charlie and Max’s summer in the city turns out to be anything but boring and he realizes that you can have adventures anywhere. The realism of these everyday adventures harks back to days when childhood had a simpler agenda. Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel, both award-winning writers, have created a fast-paced, entertaining read, complete with amusing black-and-white illustrations, humorous stories and likeable protagonists.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2012. Volume 35 No. 3.
Summer in the CityIn this sequel to Travels with My Family and On the Road Again!, Charlie and his family stay home, so Charlie figures no travel means no wild adventures. But Charlie couldn’t be more wrong! With wild animals in the backyard, the perils of summer jobs and spying on an ax murderer, Charlie realizes you don’t need to go looking for adventure, it just finds you.
Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Spring, 2012.