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Summer of the Skunks

When a mama skunk moves in under the house with her babies, ten-year-old Jill Clark and her family must tiptoe around, trying not to disturb them. “If we scare that mama skunk, she’ll spray, and this house will stink to high heavens,” Mama says.
For Jill and her siblings, a hilarious series of misadventures follows: Margo, the big sister who disdains country living, is determined to adopt one of the skunks as a pet. Fourteen-year-old Calvin and Jill secretly hide J.B., a down-on-his-luck family friend, on an abandoned pontoon boat in the cow pasture. When lazy Cousin Hershel comes for a visit and forgets to leave, Calvin, Jill, and Margo’s fire-cracker-filled plot to scare him off takes a disastrous turn.
Throughout it all Josh, the youngest, just generally complicates life for them all.
Jill’s limitless spunk and courage help her endure the humorous trials of being the little sister in a family of characters.

A sweetly episodic novel parses the events of one key summer in the life of a ten-year-old, Jill, emotionally marooned by her sister Margo, 16, and her (almost) 14-year-old brother Calvin. When a family of skunks moves in underneath the house, it starts the siblings on summer-long exploration and rediscovery of their relationships. Calvin and Jill provide secret shelter to an alcoholic family friend; the family's idyllic day of gigging frogs goes awry when they lose the car keys; a pushy relative who overstays his welcome requires drastic action to remove. These might seem to be the raw ingredients for that tired, old sub-genre, the sensitive, southern coming-of-age story-complete with quirky family-but newcomer Foreman scrupulously avoids the saccharine, allowing Jill's voice to carry the novel with its emotional honesty and growing understanding of her family's dynamics. The summer ends with tragedy, comedy, and bravery large and small, and Jill understands that she can change even as the rest of her world does. Warmly, quietly memorable.

On balance, there's more triumph than tragedy in this country idyll, which doesn't seem so idyllic for middle-child Jill, whose two older sibs, both deep in the throes of adolescence, treat her with scorn one moment and affection the next. Despite their rocky relationship, the kids work together to coax a family of skunks from under the house, and later to get their mother's shiftless cousin to move out. They also find a secret place for an alcoholic friend to stay until he can get back on his feet. None of this is accomplished, however, without plenty of lively bickering, along with an array of minor mishaps, wrapped up in the general business of growing up and getting the chores done. With its sturdy, likeable preteen narrator, a cast of recognizable characters (plus one notably mercurial milk cow), and a sunny emotional climate wracked by intense but passing storms, this will appeal to readers in search of stories that are not about broken homes, abuse, ugly secrets, racial prejudice, or (with the exception of a pet) death. --BOOKLIST

When skunks move in under their farmhouse, Jill, 10, and her teenage sister and brother must stop their usual bickering and work together to get rid of them. As the summer progresses, the siblings provide shelter for their father's old friend, a former soldier who has a drinking problem, and, with the help of a "de-scented" skunk kept as a pet, rid the house of their mother's bossy, lazy cousin when he comes to stay. Although the story is set in the 1940s, there is no strong sense of time to it. Jill's perception of her arrogant, seemingly perfect sister and independent brother, and her struggle to bond with them through their adventures is a wonderful example of family life and the need to find one's place. The girl is a strong heroine who is likable for her spirit and earnest nature.

We give Summer of the Skunks five hearts. --Heartland Reviews, Young Adult Archive

Foreman's agility and ability to write voice and character are in the best southern tradition and extend beyond to caring families of any region. --Mammal