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The Magic Summer

It finally looks like June in San Francisco should: wet, cold, and dark. We've been having apocalyptically nice weather lately, with sunshine galore and blue skies, and I must say it freaks me out.  That's all fine in October for here, but summers in San Francisco are something I emotionally prepare myself for. At no point do I pack away the thermals, because that's my secret survival method for movies in the park. I associate August with scarves, and there is no shame in wearing gloves to a Stern Grove concert. If anything, they'll help you slide down the eucalyptus hill better.

Which is to say, it is now officially Summer: the solstice has passed, and the super moon is waning. I have tactics for approaching summer. These are necessary because of the trick of weather here provides no indication whatsoever of how the rest of the country is turning on air conditioners, but also because (and maybe primarily because) I'm no longer in school. I spent so much time in school, going back to school, going back to school again, that I'm still programmed to think in semesters and summer vacations. I have friends who are school teachers who never have to unlearn this way of measuring time. But if I don't make a conscious effort to notice it, the summer will pass and I'll start to feel anxious about the nine months until its return. So, I go to movies in the park, Stern Grove concerts, and camp on little islands to mark the season. But I do so under thick layers of clothing. I also like having certain summer projects (when I was a teenager, these summer projects were: figure out how to overcome fundamental shyness and become super popular without anyone noticing. Alas, I never qualified for the movie parts where the nerd girl takes her glasses off and suddenly she's the homecoming queen, so these never amounted to much more than a new shade of lip gloss).

I also really love a good summer read (or three), something a little different than my usual fare. This summer I kicked this off with a return to my literary roots, and a title from my ten-year-old-self's bookshelf: The Magic Summer by Noel Streatfeild.

A re-read is particularly lovely if you have your
original childhood copy

Streatfeild wrote the "Shoes" books; Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes, etc., and I loved these too. They all followed a formula, but the formula was like the frequency my brain hummed at. In all the books, there were always major challenges to be overcome (poverty usually a big contributing factor), and a tragic twist (an ailing parent, being an orphan), but ultimately the protagonist's striving had a chance encounter with luck, and the ambitious girl won. Hazzah!

My re-read of The Magic Summer was just as satisfying as it was when I was ten. The formula is still the tune my brain sings along to when I'm not paying attention. There's a bit of mystery, a pack of siblings overcoming their shortcomings, an endearingly crazy aunt, a dilapidated beach house in Ireland, and suitably scary adventures where they all prove their bravery. The writing is quite good, and the author doesn't talk down to her young (or less young) audience even for a moment. At times reading it I felt myself reaching over to squeeze my younger self's hand and say, no wonder you grew up wanting to write. With stories so satisfying, who wouldn't want to make them?

I'm off to make some more hot water for a mug of tea to warm my hands around. Have a happy, magic Summer everyone!

I miss bookplates!


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