A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry

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Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

A Summer to Die, Lois Lowry’s first attempt at writing for children, was a success with both critics and young readers and looked forward to many of Lowry’s other award-winning books. It was named to the Horn Book Honor List and received the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award and state book awards from California and Massachusetts, and it was translated into nine languages. It anticipates Lowry’s autobiographical Autumn Street (1980), whose young protagonist encounters both birth and death among her family and friends, and Anastasia Krupnik (1979) and The Giver (1993), which deal with the both the pain and value of memory. While the plot of A Summer to Die recalls other juvenile books about death published in the early 1970’s—such as Doris Buchanan Smith’s A Taste of Blackberries (1973), Constance C. Greene’s Beat the Turtle Drum (1976), and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (1977)—its focus on terminal illness and a close, loving family is distinctive. Much of the continued popularity of A Summer to Die comes from its spare and simple style, its likable and believable protagonist, and its honest treatment of sibling rivalry, grief, and friendship.