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The first week of August is the exact middle of summer - the dog days. And in 1881, three unrelated events set in motion the strangest first week of August that Winnie Foster had ever seen.
Winnie's parents and grandmother were stifling and uptight. The Fosters were very proud people, and did not interact with the other people in Treegap. Winnie had never been beyond her metal-fenced yard without an adult Foster to ensure that none of the mysterious terrible things they talked of happened to her. But on the morning of the second day in August, she decided to prove to her little toad friend that she was not afraid, and she set off into the woods her family owned. What Winnie never expected was to meet a boy and learn of his dangerous secret.
When the Tuck family brought Winnie Foster to the home that hadn't seen a child in eighty years, they never expected things to happen quite like they did. But nothing ever happens without a consequence, be it good or bad, and the consequences of Winnie's morning adventure and the Tuck's dangerous secret could never have been predicted.
The descriptions and word-pictures in this children's chapter book were beautiful and fresh, giving new life to a little town in the 1800's. Because this book was written to children, the main character is a typical child - wanting adventure, but scared to take it; unhappy with the rules set in her life; naive and innocent in the ways this world works. The other characters, too, have a sort of childish nature, whether it be from the viewpoint they are seen - Winnie's viewpoint - or simply from being written for the audience this book was intended for.
While Natalie Babbitt certainly has a gift in creating beautiful yet realistic scenery, some of the characters seemed to lack depth. Granted, the book is short and meant more for children's enjoyment than teenagers' analysis, but Jesse especially needed a little something more to make him feel real. This aside, the language and simple yet profound philosophy used in this little volume make it a true treasure. It is a classic meant to be enjoyed by children of all time periods.
In closing, allow me to leave with you one of the many gems found in these pages:
"...dying's part of the wheel, right there next to being born. You can't pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being part of the whole thing, that's the blessing."
I give this book 4 stars.