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Thimble Summer

Author: Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Enright
Series: Puffin Story Books
Edition: 1982 reprint
Published: Harmondsworth
Physical Description: 144p. : ill
Notes: Elizabeth Enright (1909-68) was an American author and illustrator of numerous children’s books, who also wrote adult short stories. The Thimble Summer was first published in 1938, and won the Newbery Medal in 1939, and the work is often suggested as Enright’s best-known book. The novel was published in the Puffin Story Book series in 1955 and was reprinted by Puffin on a number of occasions throughout the following decades, suggesting its sustained popularity; this edition is a 1982 reprint. Enright is known for her novels which celebrate the family genre and her work has become synonymous with this genre to warrant a further mapping and detailing of the genre through Enright’s work (Attebery 113-36). Peter Hunt suggests The Thimble Summer as a text representative of ‘all the innocence, nostalgia and apparently simple delight of one of the most characteristically American genres of children’s literature, the family story which celebrates the ideal of rural or small-town life’ (Hunt 220). The story is a simple one of a young girl, Garnet, living in a time of drought in contemporary rural America, who links the upturn of her and her family’s fortune with her finding of a silver thimble. The silver thimble is not used as a burdened narrative symbol, however, but is returned to on a number of occasions, as a turning point in the narrative. Garnet’s adventures such as getting locked in a library, running after chickens who have escaped from an upturned coop, building a barn, and running away from home, are narrated with wit and humour. The narrative often focuses on the local landscape and small things and events memorable to Garnet, her friends, and siblings. The safety and comfort of home is an important narrative focus, and an orphan Eric finds home with Garnet and her family. Despite its status as a family story, with its connections to the domestic, the narrative often expresses Garnet’s dissatisfaction with the adventures open to her as a girl. She disapproves of her friend Citronella’s reading material as it is full of ‘people that are grown up and fall in love’ while Garnet likes ‘stories about children and wild animals and explorers’ (67). She feels jealous of and excluded from the growing brotherhood between Eric and her brother Jay, and finds no comfort in the domestic scene of women neighbours and her mother in their kitchen, which leads her to run away. However, the book ends with Garnet happily endorsing her new family and Eric’s desire to settle and farm rather than to continue roaming.
[Ciara Gallagher].
Attebery, Brian. “Elizabeth Enright and the Family Story.” Children’s Literature 37 (2009): 114-36.
Hunt, Peter. Children’s Literature. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2001.
Subject: Gender, Genre, Moral, Family, Family Story, Home, Rural, Place, Orphan
Language: English
Original price: £1.50 (U.K) $2.50 (Aust.)
Library: Church of Ireland College of Education
Collection: Bartlett Puffin Collection - CICE