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Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway

Becky isn't best pleased to be moved from her home in the city, where she has friends and a place, to the countryside where her mother grew up. There's a whole secret past that Becky feels on the verge of discovering - starting with friends her mother never mentioned, friends who drop unintentional hints about the father Becky has never met, and ending with the photo she finds of her mother with a baby - dated 12 years before she was born.

Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: A really interesting read with lots to get confident readers thinking about. Fabulous setting, good characters and some difficult themes about growing up and discovering your parents aren't the infallible super humans you believe them to be.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Usborne
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1409538592

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Then Becky's mother slips into depression, and Becky is left alone to deal with being in a new place all alone. Fortunately, she meets energetic, mysterious Rosa May who introduces her to the Butterfly Garden. Rosa May is everything to Becky, but she can be unpredictable and a bit frightening, especially when Becky starts to make friends with local boy, Mack.

The path to uncovering the truth is a dangerous one. Will trying to follow it cause Becky's life to unravel completely? And is Rosa May on her side or not?

Butterfly Summer is in a slightly younger age bracket to the books I usually read, and I was pleasantly surprised to be completely swept up in the story from the first page. Any child who's moved home will empathise with Becky and her struggle to settle into her new home, but primarily, the story is about that discovery that parents did once have a life before you came along.

While Becky's mother has rather more secrets than I would hope most do, Conway perfectly captures that unsettling feeling of realising that your parents were once young, irresponsible, and did things that you didn't know about, wouldn't have thought they would. The setting is beautifully done, with the hot oppressive summer perfectly matching the tone of the story, and the butterfly garden itself embodying the relationship between Becky and Rosa May.

The more serious themes, such as Becky's mother's depression, are dealt with sensitively but without sugar coating, and Rosa May's changeable nature gave the story a real sense of danger and tension. It's really not the story of light and happiness suggested by the title, but a much more weighty read that will give readers something to really think about.

My only criticism would be of the information on the back of the book, and this is a proof copy, so I'm really hoping some of the information is emitted from the actual release copy, because a twist that I won't spoil here was made very evident, just by a few words, and I'd guessed the ending within a few pages. It's the sort of story where the less is said, the more readers will get out of it, and I hope the final copy follows that and the final impact of the story isn't spoiled for more perceptive readers.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

For children who like books that deal with serious family issues, Moon Pie by Simon Mason is another fantastic read.

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