Reviews for Year the Swallows Came Early

Booklist Reviews 2009 February #2
*Starred Review* In San Juan Capistrano, the swallows return each year, but 10-year-old Eleanor, aka Groovy, is more concerned about her father, who was arrested before her eyes. It s shocking enough to learn that he s taken a $25,000 inheritance left to Groovy that she could have used someday for cooking school, but it s equally hard to hear that her mother is the one who called the cops. Meanwhile, Groovy s friend Frankie has his own parental problems. Fitzmaurice, a first-time novelist, offers readers a small, quiet, yet empowering story with an underlying message of forgiveness. The plotting is sometimes creaky. Groovy s father is arrested for something that is seemingly not illegal, since he is the guardian of his minor daughter s money, and he s released from jail without a trial; but these details will be problematic for adults more than children. What all readers will appreciate are the beautiful portraits of the characters, young and old, and the way the story delicately weaves its seaside setting into the story. Groovy s first-person narrative sensitively shows both her strength and her uncertainty, and in the end readers will understand when she finally embraces what she knows to be true: You gotta forgive. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 January #1
Eleven-year-old Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson is a girl with a dream. Fascinated by food and blessed with a culinary knack, Groovy plans to use the money left by her great-grandmother to go to cooking school, until she discovers that her father has gambled this money--her money--away. What's worse, her own mother has had him arrested for it. Groovy is by turns hurt, angry and lonely, but underneath all that she is confused. Her friend Frankie faces a similar situation: His mother vanished, leaving him in the care of his stepbrother, only to return years later hoping for a blissful reunion. In this daring, emotionally complex story, both Groovy and Frankie try to figure out how to accept people, especially parents, for who they are without abandoning their own needs and their own developing notions of right and wrong. As in real life, not everything is resolved in the end, and many questions remain, but things have achieved a fragile balance, rather like the ingredients in a delicate sauce. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 January #2

With her passion for cooking, 11-year-old Eleanor, aka Groovy, dreams of becoming a professional chef. But her father, a compulsive gambler, bets away her inheritance from her great-grandmother, money she had planned to use for culinary school. At first Groovy is as angry as her mother, who has Groovy's father arrested, yet during the next several weeks she learns that broken dreams, and broken families, can be rebuilt. Debut novelist Fitzmaurice creates a sympathetic heroine in Groovy and an interesting sidekick in Frankie, whose estranged mother makes a sudden appearance shortly after Groovy's father is jailed. Although nature metaphors (a surprise earthquake, birds returning early, dandelion seeds blowing in the wind) are overdrawn, the author's use of food motifs (particularly Groovy's ability to associate different dishes with specific events and moods) appears more relevant and smoothly integrated. Fitzmaurice does not completely resolve the family conflicts, but she provides hints that love will conquer old resentments. Ages 9-12. (Feb.)

[Page 47]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 February

Gr 4-7--Watching helplessly as her father is taken off to jail, Groovy Robinson, 11, is convinced that there has been a terrible mistake. When her mom admits that she turned him in because he gambled away the $25,000 savings account that Groovy's great-grandmother left her, the child shrinks into herself-disappointed, hurt, not caring about anything. Not until Groovy-now wanting to be known as Eleanor-heeds the advice of the homeless old sailor Mr. Tom does she grasp that people we love can hurt us, but that only through forgiveness can we become whole again. This first novel is peopled with three-dimensional characters whose imperfections make them believable and interesting. Groovy's big-talking, ne'er-do-well dad donates a trailer to Mr. Tom. Her beautician mom is guided by astrology, but her boundless love for Eleanor is totally grounded. And Groovy's perceptive friend Frankie is unable to grasp the real reasons that his immigrant mother left him in his stepbrother's care. The well-structured plot is underscored by clear writing and authentic dialogue, and short chapters keep the story moving. The book draws a parallel with the birds of Capistrano, and a novel that encourages understanding, tolerance, and forgiveness is as welcome as the returning swallows.--Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

[Page 98]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.