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Gossamer Summer



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About The Book

Four sisters find their summer vacation taking a magical turn when they stumble into the world of some rather unexpected fairies in this “heartwarming” (Kirkus Reviews) and “clever” (The Horn Book, starred review) middle grade story that’s perfect for fans of The Penderwicks.

It all started when Jojo saw a fairy but said she didn’t. After all, fairies aren’t real—and if they were, they wouldn’t look like that! No, Jojo did not see a small, green, muddy…person. Her sisters have no problem believing, though. They beg Jojo to finish the story she started telling long ago, but since the death of their beloved grandmother, Jojo hasn’t felt like talking about magic, even if her sisters still believe.

Instead, the sisters decide to make fairy gardens to entice the new kid across the street to come play. Their plan works, but it also catches the attention of creatures that bear an uncanny resemblance to the bedraggled fairies Jojo invented. Stories can’t come to life, though—can they? Yet the danger is real enough. With the questionable help of a very self-satisfied cat, the sisters and their new friend, Theo, set off on an adventure to save the fairies from a flock of terrifying birds made of bones.

But making everything right again will require a different kind of magic: the magic of sharing stories…and letting go.


Chapter 1: Something on the Lawn 1 Something on the Lawn
It all started when Jojo saw a fairy but said she didn’t.

Jojo sat on the rickety rocking chair on the long, wide porch, the first sister outside for the day. She was petting Fabio the cat and gazing dreamily at the small yellow house across the street. Other than their own big, white, almost-falling-down home, it was the only building on the dead-end road. An old man lived there—which meant that Jojo and her sisters ruled the neighborhood. Being in charge was maybe the only good thing about living out here in the middle of nowhere, far away from any other kids.

And, of course, far away from Grandma Nan.

But Jojo wasn’t thinking about Grandma Nan right now. Nope. She squinted at the yellow house until it got all fuzzy. How should they spend their second day of summer vacation? Fabio rotated on her lap and nudged her for more petting.

And then she saw it. At first she didn’t realize what it was. Something small flickered in the corner of her vision, something that winkled on the little stump where the twins had left a plate of food the night before, for the fairies. Jojo first thought, Fabio is eating the fairy food, the naughty cat!—but then she remembered the cat was curled on her lap.

It must be a squirrel, then. She leaned forward in her seat and stared. The creature was the size of a squirrel, but… was it green? And it looked like… well, from the back it looked almost like a very small person. Squirrel-sized. And—wearing a shirt?

It looked like a small person stuffing food into their muddy shirt.

Jojo squinted again, the sun in her eyes. It was a trick of the light. Had to be.

Fabio mewed and prickled his claws into Jojo’s leg, making her jump. The creature turned around, saw her, and froze. It looked exactly like a small greenish person. And—with a beard made of grass?

The creature looked like a fairy from a story she’d once told her sisters, one in which the boy fairies all wore suspenders and had mossy greenish beards that grew halfway down their stomachs. A grungy fairy? But that was only pretend. And she didn’t tell those stories anymore.

The small stranger nodded at Jojo. Like they knew each other. Then it waved its hand like it wanted her to come over and chat.

Just then a cupboard inside the house thumped, and at the same time a couple of birds flew overhead, cheeping, and the little creature ducked and raced off, tumbling across the street and around the yellow house to disappear into the woods behind it. Gone before Jojo could even breathe or yell or anything.

Fabio glared up at Jojo, tail twitching. He hopped off her lap, stalked over to a small pile of blankets, and recurled himself into a crescent roll.

Carefully Jojo stepped down from the porch and tiptoed over to the stump where her younger sisters had left their fairy presents. The grass was still morning-damp, and there was a faint trail of disturbed dew leading toward the road, exactly as if a squirrel-sized person had scampered off.

The stump was empty. The food and note the twins had put there were gone.

At that moment the twins slammed out the back door and ran noisily around the house to the front. Maisie, the oldest sister, banged outside after them, calling, “The cooler has all our food in it, and the water jug is heavy and it’s for all of us, but I’ve got it. No one needs to help.”

Jojo ignored her, and so did the twins.

Bee, the one-smidge-taller and seven-minutes-older twin, gasped and said, “It’s gone! The delicious feast we made!”

“And the beautiful card we drew!” said Amy.

The delicious feast had been five-day-old fried rice the twins were supposed to take to the compost bin but instead arranged artfully on a paper plate, with fuzzy, shrunken strawberries on top. The beautiful card had been a handwritten note asking the fairies to visit the sisters in their new house, the paper scrap covered with splashes of red that looked like bloodstains.

“Did you see them?” Amy asked Jojo. “Were the fairies here when you came out?”

Jojo thought. She must have seen a squirrel. Yes, that was it. A mutant squirrel.

Amy gasped. “You did? You saw them? What did they look like?”

“What did they smell like?” Bee asked.

“No!” Jojo stepped back. “I didn’t see anything.”

The twins stared at her.

“But we asked, and you nodded—” started Amy.

“Fairies aren’t real.” Jojo needed time, alone with her brain, to think about what she’d imagined. “Anyway, it was Fabio.”

“Fabio stole the fairy food?” Bee sounded wistful. “Did he… like it?”

“He ate the plate, too?” Amy sounded suspicious.

“He dragged it off. That direction, I think.” Jojo gestured vaguely toward the backyard, away from the woods where the not-a-fairy had disappeared. “And the squirrels ate most of the food. One ran off when I came outside just now. Kind of a mutant one.”

Jojo’s younger sisters’ shoulders slumped in unison. They weren’t identical twins, but they looked the same, except that Bee was a tiny bit taller and had curlier hair, and Amy had more of a button nose and wider-set eyes, and Bee was right-handed and Amy left-handed, and Bee was more interested in food and slimy things, and Amy was more interested in art and crawly things. But otherwise: the same. They were five years old, the “little girls,” while Maisie at eleven years old and Jojo at ten were the “big girls.”

At least, that was what Grandma Nan had always called them. The little girls and the big girls. In the before time. Before last summer, when Grandma Nan died, and before last fall, when they moved out to the rambly house in the country.

“You’re no fun anymore,” said Amy. She ran to the porch, where their oldest sister had lugged the cooler and the water jug. “Maisie,” she announced, “our fairy presents are gone!”

Maisie pushed the cooler against the front door. “And I bet they made the fairies happy. Now, do we have everything we need? Mom said not to come in at all today except to pee.”

The four sisters looked around the porch, which ran across the whole front of the house. There were blankets and pillows to lie on, a stack of books and games and puzzles, a box of paper and crayons and pencils, a small wooden catapult, and a bucket of chalk. There was a bottle of soap for handwashing and some bandages for if you got scraped up. There was a skateboard and some old roller skates. There was one real chair—the rocking chair—which they had to take turns using. The cooler made a nice second chair if you sat on the lid and didn’t bounce around too much. And of course, you could sprawl on the pillows and blankets.

The porch itself was lovely. The floor was graying wood that never gave splinters because the boards were fitted closely and worn smooth—good for pretend ice-skating if you remembered socks. Wide wooden steps led down to the lawn. Around three sides of the porch ran a metal railing you could stand on if you were brave, and you could hold on to the pillar at the porch’s corner, lean forward, and pretend you were lookout on a pirate ship.

The porch had a big wooden door that was supposed to let you into the living room of the house. But the door didn’t open, not ever, because it was one of those really old doors that needed a key in the inside lock, and the key had been lost long before they moved in, so they had to use the back door. The thing the porch door was good for was making a nice backrest for whoever sat on the cooler.

“Do we have everything?” Maisie asked again, looking at Jojo. Maisie didn’t like it when she had to repeat things because someone was daydreaming.

“Socks?” said Jojo.

“Rats,” Maisie said. “But that’s not important enough to go back inside for.” She took a small notebook and a pen out of the box of paper and wrote socks for ice-skating on the first blank page. “I’m making a list for tomorrow.”

“Put candy on the list too. Tomorrow should have candy,” said Bee.

Maisie ignored her and put the list back in the paper box. “Plans for today?” She looked at Jojo. “General?”

“Thank you, President,” said Jojo. “Today our plans are to land on Mars and—”

“We did that yesterday,” said Amy.

“Yesterday was the moon. Day two is Mars.”

“Same thing.” Amy pouted out her bottom lip. “I want to do something different.”

“Fine,” Jojo said, crossing her arms on her chest like she imagined a real general might, just before he said, Chop off their heads. “Tell me what you want, underlings.”

“First, don’t call us underlings,” said Amy. “Second, you’re a nincompoopy—”

“No swearing,” said Maisie.

And then Amy said the thing that Jojo thought she might say, the thing Jojo absolutely didn’t want. “Let’s play fairies!”

Bee said, “Yes! Because of the fairy presents getting eaten.”

Jojo shook her head. No. They hadn’t played fairies since Grandma Nan.

“That sounds like a great idea,” said Maisie, glancing at Jojo with a question in her eyes. “With a fairy story, of course.”

No no no.

About The Author

Greg Stoeckel

H. M. Bouwman grew up as the second of four sisters, and together they put on plays and magic shows (and once, a circus), ran a hospital for animals, climbed trees, played made-up games, and roamed the neighborhood. She now has two children who grew up creating wild stories, collecting fossils of dead animals, and building fairy gardens. H. M. Bouwman lives in Minnesota and teaches at the University of St. Thomas. She is the author of several novels for young readers including A Crack in the Sea and Gossamer Summer. Visit her at

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Raves and Reviews

* "Cue trouble in fairyland and kids to the rescue. Bouwman pulls off this energetic slipperiness with such confidence and brio that we almost don’t notice that the underlying story is one of bereavement, as the girls are coping with the death of their grandmother. The writing is a complete delight of originality and specificity. Reliably funny, never once twee, clever in the way of kids and fairies, and authentically moving."

Horn Book Magazine, STARRED REVIEW

"An omniscient narrator sets a playful tone and brisk pace in this humorous, E. Nesbit–feeling fantasy from Bouwman, and the fairies and younger sisters provide comic relief as Jojo and other characters unpack grief of their own."

Publishers Weekly

"Bouwman’s clever middle-grade fantasy has a delightful throwback feel . . . Jojo directly references Narnia as inspiration for her tales, but the book also has much in common with The Neverending Story. . . A heartwarming fantasy exploring grief, friendship, and fairies."

Kirkus Reviews

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