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About The Book

From the acclaimed author of Tune It Out and Roll with It comes an inspirational and engaging middle grade book about a young girl who sets out to overcome her anxiety over the course of one life-changing summer.

Twelve-year-old June Delancey is kicking summer off with a bang. She shaves her head and sets two goals: she will beat her anxiety and be the lion she knows she can be, instead of the mouse everyone sees. And she and her single mama will own their power as fierce, independent females.

With the help of Homer Juarez, the poetry-citing soccer star who believes in June even when she doesn’t believe in herself, she starts a secret library garden and hatches a plan to make her dreams come true. But when her anxiety becomes too much, everything begins to fall apart. It’s going to take more than a haircut and some flowers to set things right. It’s going to take courage and friends and watermelon pie. Forget second chances. This is the summer of new beginnings.

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Behold 1 Behold
I AM A WONDER TO behold.

At least, that’s what Mom said when she saw the clumps of hair on the bathroom floor. She took one look at my bald head and my bare feet itching under all that shed weight and announced, “Junebug, you are a wonder to behold.” And then she pried the pink Bic razor from my fingers and took it to her own head. That’s the thing about Mom. She is a woman of action.

Her dark waves fell and mixed with my blond ones, and altogether we made an unruly mess. But it was a mess on the floor and not on our heads, so that was that.

She was not a wonder to behold. Honestly.

All that hair had been hiding bumps and divots and a scalp so white it was almost gray. She scratched at it with her glittery purple nails, exploring the whole craggy moonscape.

“Mom, you look sensational,” I said, our brown eyes hooking on each other in the mirror. It was not true. Sometimes you have to tell a little lie to call a bigger truth into being. This summer I am summoning all our truths.

Truth #1: I will not be the girl who pulls out her own hair because she’s running from the anxious thoughts in her head.

Truth #2: Mom and I will own our power as fierce, independent females.

Just because her boyfriend, Keith, dumped her last week does not mean Mom has to turn into the lonesome librarian. He wasn’t even supposed to be her boyfriend in the first place. He stopped by to try to sell us insurance and stayed three years! We can be happy without him. Together. On our own.

Here’s Truth #3 (the secret truth): I am tired of being the nervous mouse girl who is scared all the time and runs from everything. And I’m sick of waiting for the right things to happen. This summer, I am going to be a lion. And I will make happily ever after come to me.

Ten minutes later:

I stand in front of my dresser mirror and stare at my “melon,” as Mom calls it. I hate my hair. Mom lied. I am no wonder. I look like a visitor from another planet. I feel like that all the time, but now my outsides match my insides and I’m not okay with it. I turn my head left and then right, but the view’s no better. I’m no lion. I am a pale white thing in a pale white room. I turn away from the mirror before I have to watch myself cry.

My head itches to be itched, but I tuck my fingers into my palms. That’s what got me in trouble in the first place. First the itch starts on the inside, from all the prickly thoughts, and then it spreads outside like a creeping vine until I can feel it all over me, like poison ivy. So I scratch. But once I start, I can’t stop. And then the scratching isn’t enough. So I pull. I yank and yank until, with a tiny satisfying ping of pain, a hair or five come away. For a sweet second, I’m numb. The worries go quiet. I can stop rocking in place. I can be still, inside and out.

What nobody gets is that hair-pulling is satisfying with a capital S. Each strand is a pull-chain in the tub. Yank on it and a little of the worry leaks out. It keeps me from overflowing… or it did. I knock on my bare head with my fist, once, gently, like I’m knocking on a door. Hello, anybody home? This was a colossal mistake. Why did I think that because my hair is gone the itchy worry would be too? What am I going to do when it starts and I’ve got nothing to use to stop it? Can you drown in your own thoughts?

I pace, following the swirls in the grain of the wood floor, back and forth, back and forth. There is a patch of morning light in the shape of a diamond. I stop. Crouch. Stick my hand over it so the diamond is on my palm. It is warm as a hug. I wish I could carry it with me, that warm patch of light.

“Junebug, you better be dressed and on the curb in two minutes!” Mom yells from the kitchen just as the toaster oven dings. I can smell the cinnamon and butter from here. Mom makes an excellent croissant French toast, which most of the time we eat in plastic bags filled with syrup in the car. We are always late. It’s the most dependable thing about us.

When I settle onto the cracked leather of Thelma’s interior, the tag from my T-shirt slides up, touching a spot on my neck I did not know existed. I flinch. I did not anticipate the tag issue. Without my hair in the way, it is a lightning rod, a buzzer to my senses like that game Operation, where you have to pull out the organs with tiny tweezers. I tug at my collar while Thelma coughs and rumbles and sighs. When Mom curses her whole existence, Thelma finally vrooms to life. Thelma’s our Ford. She used to be red, we think, but now she’s mostly rust—the color of a rotten orange. But we love her. Seven years ago, she got us all the way from New Orleans to Nashville. Thelma is the means of all our great escapes.

Ants go marching up and down my back. No, it’s just the tag. I wriggle my shoulders up and down, up and down. My therapist, Gina, likes to say my mind has a mind of its own. It fixates on the strangest and most unreasonable things. I worry about the tag. I worry that I will keep worrying about the tag. I worry that it worries me. It is the worry-go-round, a hamster on a wheel.

I try my favorite car trick to stop the thoughts. I crack my window and let the wind blow straight in my eyes until they fill with tears and the maple trees blur, their green leaves waving like peacock feathers. I would like to be a peacock—so bright and beautiful that people are drawn to me.

Mom rolls her own window all the way down too. She finds a Ray LaMontagne song on the radio. I don’t know how she can seem so easy in herself, with her hand out the window riding the waves of the wind. She is the yin to my yang.

Nick, Mr. Ex #2, was a musician, and he sounded just like Ray on the radio. He is how we ended up in Nashville in the first place. He lasted the longest, ages four to eight in “June time,” but he was also the worst. He was the slowest to realize that nobody can stick with Mom without getting me in the bargain. When he finally showed himself for what he was, Mom kicked him to the curb. But it was too late for me. Not all shadows dissolve in the sunshine. He’s been my shadow for years. But I don’t like to talk about that.

We’re only a five-minute drive to the Columbia Public Library, where Mom works. It’s just south of the teeny tiny downtown of Franklin that has been our home these past seven years just outside Nashville. At ten till ten on this Saturday morning, we pull into the library’s parking lot, more potholes than road, and bump along to the employee slots under the row of crab-apple trees around back. I tip the plastic baggie into my mouth and suck out the last few drops of syrup.

“Ick, June.” Mom shudders.

I smack my lips. “Don’t yuck my yum.”

Like bank robbers, we kick Thelma’s doors open and launch ourselves out, bald heads and all, into the damp morning heat. Summer, here we come.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for

The Summer of June

By Jamie Sumner

About the Book:

June Delancey is tired of being an anxious mouse. This summer, she’s going to stop letting anxiety rule her life and be a lion instead. June starts off her summer of bravery by vowing to embrace her independence and help her newly single mom do the same. She also impulsively shaves her head, hoping it will calm the anxiety that causes her to pull out her hair. It doesn’t work quite as June expects when her new haircut does catch the eye of poetry-quoting soccer star Homer Juarez. Soon, June is spending her days at the library where her mom works, playing chess with Homer, and planting a secret garden. However, June’s mind has a mind of its own. When June’s anxiety starts to overwhelm her again, it seems like everything she’s worked for is about to fall apart. Luckily, June’s fierce mother and her new friends are there to help, with poetry, plants, watermelon pie, and a whole lot of love.

Discussion Questions:

1. At the start of the book, June says “I am tired of being the nervous mouse girl who is scared all the time and runs from everything . . .This summer, I am going to be a lion.” (Chapter one) Why does June want to be a lion? What animal do you think you are? Do you ever wish you were a different animal like June does? If so, what animal do you wish you were, and why?

2. Why does June shave her head? Have you ever drastically changed something about the way you look? What was it, and why did you change it?

3. What are some of the ways June’s mom supports her? How do your parents or any other adults in your life support you? In what areas of your life do you wish you had more support?

4. Homer says he wants to be friends with June because she seems “different.” What do you think Homer means by this? Why is it important to him that June is different? Is Homer different too? How?

5. Homer calls June “rebel June.” Does June feel like a rebel? Does she want to be a rebel? How do you know?

6. What does June think Homer is going to be like? What is he actually like? Have you ever met someone who turned out to be not what you expected? Who was it, and in what ways did they surprise you?

7. Why do you think Homer quotes poetry instead of using his own words? Why is June the first person Homer has ever said a line of poetry to?

8. When Homer first approaches June at the library, June is resistant. June also throws away the packet of seeds Luis gives her. She says, “New people are not part of the summer plan.” (Chapter two) Why do you think June is so resistant to making new friends? Do you have a hard time or an easy time making friends?

9. How does the blue wig make June feel? Why? Do you have an item that makes you feel like that?

10. June cuts her hair after a girl at school makes fun of the scabs on her head. Why do you think people make fun of other people? Have you ever had to face this kind of bullying? How did you handle it?

11. June says, “I guess the library is full of lonely people.” (Chapter eight) Do you think this is true? Do the people at the library where June’s mom works seem lonely to you? Why or why not?

12. June begins each day at the library by checking the recent returns shelf. What is the recent returns shelf? Why do you think June likes it so much? Do you have a favorite area in your library? Where is it, and why do you like it?

13. In the author’s note, Jamie Sumner says, “Mental health must be treated with respect and care.” What is mental health? What does it mean to treat it with respect? Why is this important?

14. When Tandy throws away the seedlings the children have planted at the library, June gets very upset. She says, “Right now I am not mousy June. I am June the lion.” (Chapter nine) Why does Tandy throwing away the seedlings bring out the lion in June? What do the seedlings mean to her?

15. June thinks, “The more I get my hands in the dirt, the less I have to fight the worry.” (Chapter seventeen) Why do you think gardening is so helpful to June? Do you have any activities that help you keep your worries away? What are they?

16. To save her garden, June must speak in front of the library board. How does she find the courage to do this? Have you ever had to find the courage to do something that scared you? How did you do it?

17. What are the symptoms of June’s anxiety? What are some things that trigger it for her? Which strategies and treatments help her?

18. June says, “My therapist, Gina, likes to say my mind has a mind of its own. It fixates on the strangest and most unreasonable things.” (Chapter one) What are some of the strategies June uses to calm her anxiety? Do you ever feel like your mind has a mind of its own?

19. After June has a panic attack at the parade, Luis brings her a lavender plant. June observes, “His kindness hurts.” (Chapter thirteen) What does she mean by this? Why would kindness be painful to her? Have you ever felt like this?

20. June calls Homer one of her “safe people.” What does she mean by this? Who are June’s other safe people, and why? Who are the safe people in your life? What makes them feel safe for you?

21. The book begins with a quote from the children’s book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: “But there is a third thing you must do . . . you must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Do you think June succeeds at this? How? Do you agree that this is a good goal to have? What would you do to make the world more beautiful?

22. Why is June so determined to get her mom to date Daniel? Why does June dislike Sam so much at first, even though her mother likes him? What makes June change her mind?

23. At the parade, June thinks about Homer, “it shouldn't bother me that he’s having such a good time today. But it does. He has no idea how hard this is for me.” (Chapter twelve) Have you ever felt upset that something that is hard for you is easy for someone else? How did you manage that feeling?

24. Eventually, June decides to move her seedling, Theresa, outside with the other plants. June thinks, “Maybe she needs to be with her friends to grow.” (Chapter thirteen) How do June’s friends help her grow?

25. How does June change over the course of the book? Do you think she is a lion by the end, like she wanted to be? Why or why not?

26. Do you think things will be different for June when she goes back to school in the fall, after the events in Summer of June? Why or why not?

Extension Activities:

1. In The Summer of June, June and her friends create a community garden at the library. Create a poster or slideshow explaining what community gardens are and how they help communities.

To get started, try doing an internet search for “community gardens” and your town or a major city. For example, there are a lot of community gardens in New York City and in Oakland, California.

You can also check out this video about one man who has made a network of community gardens in Harlem:

https://www.pbs.org/video/harlem-grown-oasis-new-york-city-xkez7e/

If you’d like, visit a local community garden and take photographs or make a video for your presentation.

2. June and her friends plant a secret garden behind the library. Imagine you are planting your own garden. Make a list of what you will plant, and why. If you’d like, you can use a seed catalog or website to get ideas for different flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Then draw a map showing how you would arrange your garden, or make a collage of your garden using pictures cut out of a seed catalog.

3. In the author’s note, Jamie Sumner says, “Mental health must be treated with respect and care.” Make a poster or create a slideshow defining what mental health is. Then choose one mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, and explain its symptoms, different ways it can be treated, and how friends and family can support a loved one who has this illness.

4. The Summer of June ends right before June returns to school for the year. Write the story of June’s first day back at school. What do you think things are like for her at school now? Does she have any more encounters with Allyson? Does she stay friends with Homer now that the summer is over? Does she grow her hair back or keep it short? How is she doing with her anxiety?

5. June’s therapist, Gina, often asks June: “If your life had a soundtrack, what song would be playing right now?” (Chapter thirteen) Make a soundtrack, or a list of songs, for your own life. What would play when you’re happy, worried, or angry; when you’re hanging out with your friends; or during other important times in your life? Be sure to explain why you chose each song. If you’d like, create the playlist in your favorite music app.

6. Homer finds it easiest to communicate through poetry, and June is amazed when Homer writes a poem about her. Try your hand at being a poet. Write a poem about someone who is important to you. Your poem can rhyme, like Homer’s poem does, or it can be free verse, which is poetry that does not rhyme.

Chris Clark is a writer and reading teacher who lives with her family in coastal Maine.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph © Bethany Rogers

Jamie Sumner is the author of Roll with ItTime to Roll, Tune It OutOne Kid’s Trash, and The Summer of June. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and other publications. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She is also the mother of a son with cerebral palsy and has written extensively about parenting a child with special needs. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her at Jamie-Sumner.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (May 31, 2022)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534486027
  • Grades: 5 and up
  • Ages: 10 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"With a sensitive hand, Sumner offers a realistic portrayal of how those around you, therapy, and medication can all work together to help an anxious mind. . . A needed, hopeful book for middle-grade readers on friendship, mental health, and acceptance."

– Booklist

"In a love letter to libraries told in June’s thoughtful voice, Sumner vividly traces one adolescent’s anxiety and its attendant difficulties." 

 

– Publishers Weekly

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