The Canning Season
published in 2012


Appropriate age:
Tween/Young Teen (age 12-14)
Reading level:
Grade 6
Genres: Fiction, Humor, Historical Fiction
Subjects: Family, Fish, Seasons, Adoption, Friendship, Humor, Cars, Orphans


As in Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, Polly Horvath tells the story of an abandoned child who is sent to live with two distant relatives in a big, lonely house. The magic in Horvath's story, however, lies not in talking bugs but in the hearts and minds of its characters. Thirteen-year-old Ratchet Clark, a girl with a deformity on her shoulder blade her breezily cruel, self-absorbed mother calls "That Thing, " is unceremoniously kicked out for the summer while her mom attends to important things, like how to gain entry into the prestigious Pensacola country club. Mom drops Ratchet off at her great second-cousins' enormous, turreted house in Maine, a remote seaside estate surrounded by oily blueberry bogs and bears. What starts out as a fairly grim proposition transforms as Ratchet befriends the endearing, downright hilarious 91-year-old twins Aunt Tilly and Aunt Penpen who are "as different as chalk and cheese" and learns the ways of rural Maine. When another unwanted teenage girl named Harper ("obnoxious, but strangely compelling") enters the scene, the household dynamic changes yet again. Though fairytale-like in its setting and its charm, do not be fooled. Suicide, decapitation, wretched mothers, and a sprinkling of profanity pepper this poignant, philosophical, darkly humorous novel that dips into subjects from technology to love to death. In Horvath's capable hands, readers are left believing in the best of human nature as she switches effortlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again. Wild stories, brilliant dialogue, and vats of compassion distinguish Newbery Honor author Horvath's latest offering. (Ages 12 and older) --Karin Snelson