Author: Nanci Turner Steveson.
Annie has always wanted to be a country girl, and now she finally has her chance. The doctor has prescribed a summer of freedom. Out go the spreadsheets, the schedules, the rules that bind Annie’s life – she’s ready for adventure.
California lives right down the road, and she seems to be everything Annie has ever wanted to be. More, she wants Annie’s help; she’s hatched a plan to bring her own mother back to the farm, by finding her mother’s old horses and returning the farm to its old state. Annie is delighted by this chance for adventure, but she’ll have to lie to her mother – California’s family is looked down upon in Annie’s family.
The truth comes out in unexpected ways and from unexpected places, and this will be a summer Annie’ll never forget.
A well-told, tender story. The friendship between Annie and California, misunderstandings and reconciliations and all, was believable and interesting, the back-and-forth friendship more true to life than many. The relationship between Annie and her parents was also fine-tuned and tender as Annie learns to understand both her mother’s love and need for control and safety. Too often parents in children’s fiction are brushed aside, or if there then their control is often presented as something to evade, sneak away from, and cleverly triumph over. Swing Sideways presents a much truer note, even in Annie’s unavoidably biased viewpoint.
The prose flowed well, and kept an interesting turn of phrase, while remaining simple enough for younger children.
The only negative note the book struck for me was in the handling of cancer; it was a little strange, in that for most of the book the focus is on friendship, freedom and love – then abruptly, at the very end, the illness becomes gravely important. Overall rating: A bittersweet story of friendship and love, that well-deserves its comparisons to “Bridge to Terabithia.”
Sexual content: Girl says she never had a father, and on being pressed says her mother wanted a baby and found a sperm donor.
Language: 1 d***, 1 scatological term
Violence: One character shoves another into a stream playfully. Character finds a dog with a mangled leg that got caught in a trap. A man twists his ankle. One girl falls out of a tree, acquiring bruises and minor cuts. One character dies of a terminal illness.
Other: The book deals lightly with an: anxiety/eating disorder, and the subject of cancer.