Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)

Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 6, 2014 by First Second Books (First edition)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Graphic Novel
Awards: Governor General's Literary Award for
               Children's Literature (Illustration), 2014
               Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, 2015
               Michael L. Printz Honor Book, 2015
               Caldecott Medal Honor Book, 2015

MLA: Tamaki, Mariko (writer) and Tamaki, Jillian (illus.). This One Summer. New York: First Second, 2014. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1596437746. Paperback, $17.99.

Find it in your local library!

Every year since she can remember, Rose and her parents trek to Awago Beach where they spend ten blissful days enjoying the last bright rays of summer sunshine as a family. This year, Rose and her summertime friend Windy find themselves entangled in the local teenagers’ drama as a means of avoiding Rose’s mounting family problems in this beautifully illustrated story about the perilous and thrilling journey from girlhood to grown-up.

The Wallace family’s annual vacation to their cabin on Awago Beach usually means that Rose spends two blissful weeks swimming in the lake, collecting rocks with her parents, and riding bikes with her summer friend Windy. But this year is different.

Just going to the beach and lounging around with her family and Windy doesn’t seem to be enough for Rose anymore. The girls begin to notice the Awago townie teenagers in all their dramatic zeal, and spying on them suddenly becomes their summer mission. Rose and Windy are curious about scary movies and sex, and Rose doesn’t want to admit her crush on store clerk Dunc.

Meanwhile, Rose’s parents – affable Evan and increasingly withdrawn Alice – won’t stop fighting, and as Alice’s depression worsens, Rose is increasingly frustrated and angered by her behavior. Sweet, outgoing Windy, who is a year younger than Rose, occasionally seems a little too immature.

Everything about the summer looks the same but feels different, and as Rose flashes back to the simpler memories of her childhood on Awago Beach, she realizes that things will never be the same after This One Summer.


I don’t even know where to start with this gorgeous graphic novel. Everything about it, from the quietly heartbreaking story to the startlingly accurate tween dialogue to the seriously PERFECT illustrations just made me melt.

Let me begin with my favorite image from This One Summer:

Jillian Tamaki draws such organic and emphatic movement that I feel like these characters are real. The fluid motion of Windy’s dancing just totally filled my heart for some reason. I love Windy. I finished this book thinking, she’s going to be such an awesome grown-up someday. This spread really captures the joy of being young, of dancing to your own tune. I’m in love.

Rose’s best quality, and one of the many reasons she’s such a compelling character, is her curiosity, always making observations. Yes, she is good at being quiet and sneaking around to catch pieces of information. But she also pays such close attention to her surroundings. We could all stand to be a little more attentive to each other.

There’s this moment of realization toward the end of the book that the mothers know pretty much everything that has happened with the girls over the summer vacation, right down Rose’s new crush. It weirdly surprised me. Weirdly, because now that I’m (chronologically) an adult, I should obviously know that parents ALWAYS know what’s going on, even if it doesn’t seem like they are paying attention. But I became so wrapped up in Rose and Windy and watching their experiences unfold from a tween perspective that I was genuinely surprised that the moms knew what they were up to. That’s how well Mariko and Jillian develop this story – I was transported into the girls’ world so deeply that I forgot the realities of the adult world for a moment. And that’s the true gift of This One Summer.

As you can see from the description, This One Summer was nominated for a bunch of awards, including the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Illustration, sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts. Here's a video of Jillian Tamaki discussing the book upon winning the award.

I totally agree when she talks about writer and illustrator being "co-creators," in the instance of This One Summer especially. The text is occasionally sparse, allowing the illustrations to tell the story in a way that words just couldn't. When a bowl slips from Alice's frustrated hands and smashes into pieces on the floor, or when Evan carries Rose to the cabin at the beginning of the story, those moments are made so much more powerful because we can see them. Jillian has complete command of our attention through her illustrations, helping us see what moments are most important. Her beautiful art makes me wish I could draw, and I want to hang some of these pictures on my wall. 

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