The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Here we are, heading into the last days of March, and there’s another snowstorm predicted for the Northeast. I’d say it’s time for a little bit of summer, wouldn’t you?

I’ve been waiting MONTHS to tell you about this book. I read an early copy and wanted to wait for publication day to share thoughts because it’s one of those books you’ll want to swoop in and read right away.

If you’re familiar with our TeachersWrite Virtual Summer Writing Camp, then you already know the author, Gae Polisner, who runs Friday Feedback on her blog and has encouraged more fledgling writers than I can count. She’s funny, kind, generous with her time, and a pretty spectacular writer, too. THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is one of those books that will make you laugh and cry and sigh, and pretty much everything in between. It’s about summer, friendship, the idea of reincarnation, families, shame, and forgiveness, and other things, too.

Here’s the official publisher blurb from GoodReads:

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca s little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca s the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can t have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it s possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she d never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky

And here’s what I wrote to Gae when I finished reading that early copy:

I have to confess – I spent all of yesterday binge-reading. It’s been such a busy couple of months with travel and deadlines, so with the kids on vacation, I’d been saving it from post-NCTE to read over their break. I just loved it so much – the characters and their beautiful flaws, the beach and the crabs and the tears and of course, Frankie. Well…both Frankies. It’s an incredible book, and I’m so excited for everyone else to find it, too.

It’s funny – people ask me all the time if I miss teaching, and usually, I’m okay…I love what I do now and get to do so many writing workshops with kids when I travel. But your book made me wish for a minute that I still had a 7th grade classroom so I could book-talk it and put it in kids’ hands. I do miss that moment of giving a kid a book that I know she will love.

If you are a teacher, or a reader, you know the kind of book I’m talking about. This is one of those books. It’ll be the best fit for your high school & older middle school readers who love YA novels by Sarah Dessen and Jo Knowles.

I support independent bookstores because they support our readers and communities. If THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is on your must-read list, please consider asking for it at your local indie.

St. Patrick’s Day in Western NY

My author travel this week was full of wonderfully familiar faces because I spent two days in Western New York, not far from where I grew up.  The students and staff of DeSales Catholic School in Lockport were all decked out for St. Patrick’s Day when I arrived Monday morning.

This visit was such a wonderful whirlwind that I never got the chance to take photos with the kids. I did get to hug Mr. Granchelli, one of their fourth grade teachers who worked with my parents and lived in my home town of Medina when I was growing up.  And then I spent LOTS of time signing books. Since many of my titles were available through the Scholastic Book Fairs & Clubs this fall, the PTA was able to purchase copies for students. I got to sign them in the gym before & after my presentation. I kept wondering if anyone would notice if I took a break to shoot baskets.

Thanks so much to Karen for organizing this visit and to all of the wonderful staff and students who made it so special.

Monday afternoon, I headed to Monkey See, Monkey Do Children’s Bookstore in Clarence for a book signing. If you live in Western NY and haven’t been here yet, it’s so worth the visit.

I was thrilled to see some friendly, familiar faces there, too. Here’s Twitter friend and Sweet Home Middle School teacher David Etkin, whose students have been reading CAPTURE THE FLAG.

I also got to spend some time with one of my very best friends from high school, Patrice Birner. We spent a lovely lunch catching up, laughing over old times, and making a list of our former teachers to whom we probably owe an apology. 🙂



Before I left, I signed the bookstore’s special author-visit podium! I chose a spot next to Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s signature, since my daughter and have so enjoyed reading her books aloud together.

You know those familiar, friendly faces I mentioned? One of them belonged to my sister, who was kind enough to put me up at her house for this visit. She is the best in more ways than would ever fit in a blog post.

On Tuesday morning, I headed to Rushville, NY for a morning at Middlesex Valley Primary School, whose principal is my cousin Paul Lahue.

Paul and I were both the youngest in our families, so we were regularly persecuted by the older kids and formed a kind of bond. It was fun to see him in his grown-up element, running the show with a quiet confidence and greeting every child by name. He’s  just the kind of school principal I want my own kids to have.

When I turned around after setting up my computer in one of the classrooms, my Aunt Maureen had popped in for a surprise visit. If you’ve read my book EYE OF THE STORM, she’s the librarian in the dedication. She stayed for my “Story Puzzles” writing workshop with the 2nd graders.

Thanks so much to everyone who made my visit to Western New York so magical this week!






Thank you, Winchester Thurston School!

I spent a wonderful day with the readers of Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh this week. It’s always fun to visit readers where they learn, but it’s extra special when you walk into the building and see that the bookish excitement has been building for weeks.The Winchester Thurston community sure knows how to make an author feel welcome!

Here are my terrific hostesses, librarians extraordinaire Kate Weber and Jennifer Kraar.  They’d been reading with their students for moths to prepare for the visit, and the art in the hallways reflected that. It was so much fun to see the kids’ interpretations of my books and characters!

There was even a Sea Monster cake at lunch time!

This school community really seemed to love SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY and SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH. Jennifer told me that’s because they all felt like Ernest the Sea Monster shared the values of their school motto: “Think also of the comfort and rights of others.” The Pre-K and Kindergarten students were especially big Ernest fans. These kids know what it means to be a “Friend Fish.”

In addition to the large group assemblies, I had the chance to spend a little more time with the fifth graders, who are talented authors in their own right. We did a mystery writing workshop that I promised I’d share online in case anyone wanted to look back at the ideas to do more brainstorming.

After the writing workshop, a group of students presented me with letters and a wonderfully bright, bouncy bouquet of paper flowers they’d made. I carried it all through the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Airports and got lots of smiles from fellow travelers. I think the bouquet was a bright spot in their day, too. (A few people even asked me if I’d just gotten married!)

Thank you, Jennifer and Kate, and all of the wonderful, enthusiastic teachers and students of Winchester Thurston School. I absolutely loved my day reading, writing, and talking books with your school community!