IT’S ANOTHER EDITION OF MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY and a great way to kick off the first week of summer with CATERPILLAR SUMMER!


Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

MY TAKE: An island off the North Carolina coast provides the perfect setting for this touching contemporary story. Pictured on the cover are Caterpillar and Chicken, nicknames and also the characters in their author mom’s picture books. The illustrations from her books appear at various times showing the parallel to the real Cat and Chicken.

Cat is what a big sister is meant to be, always there for her little brother who has challenges of his own. Her mom has given Cat a lot of responsibility to be the go to person in the family, but Cat wants a little more kid time to herself. It seems hardly possible once Mom leaves them at her parent’s house, the grandparents Cat and Chicken had never met. Grandma is nice but Grandpa is a total grump.

The overall feel of the story is to never judge a person by what you know or see. Dig deeper and get down to who they really are. The past can often hinder friendships and family growth. The third person narration flows like the ocean currents and you’ll hope for another summer with this family.




  1. The two children are biracial (Mom is white and the deceased father black). It never becomes the focus of the story as it could have been. These are just two kids growing up in a sometimes confusing world.
  2. All the characters, including the minor ones, were memorable and attest to the fine job the author did in creating each one. The character arcs are marvelously woven.
  3. This is summer in all of its splendor with walks on the beach, miniature golf, and fishing contests. The story goes by as fast as every summer does.
  4. Grandparents are such a needed part of the family. They provide memories and support that often isn’t noticed right away.
  5. Chicken is a handful, but his antics will have you smiling at how they’re handled by the important people in his life.


He took a bite and made a silly face, crossing his eyes. They laughed, huddled under the table like it was their secret cave. But even then, Cat held his shoulder. She had to keep him safe.


GILLIAN McDUNN has lived in California, Missouri, and North Carolina, and is a fan of both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. She lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, with her family.

Like Cat, Gillian grew up as the big sister to a younger brother with special needs.

(For more about Gillian visit her author website , Twitter and Instagram)


If you have time, please comment below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Books about summer are always something my students want to read, especially right when they get back from summer break or in the middle of January. I wish this had been a bit less angsty, but it’s certainly on trend in that regard!

  2. Glad you enjoyed this. I like that the fact that the kids were bi-racial was not a big deal. Kids who are bi-racial or anything else,like adopted,need books about themselves that aren’t issue books.

  3. What a great title and cover. Your review sold me on this story. There is so much to love about the characters! Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. I want to get my hands on a copy of this one. It sounds so good. Thanks for your review.

  5. This one looks good. I love grumpy grandpas!

  6. Pingback: The 2019 Golden Cup Awards | Always in the Middle…

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