Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Year the Swallows Came Early

By Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Publisher: THE BOWEN PRESS An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-162497-1

FROM THE FLAP: Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson loves cooking and plans to go to culinary school just as soon as she’s old enough. But even Groovy’s thoughtfully planned menus won’t fix the things that start to go wrong the year she turns eleven. Suddenly, her father is in jail, her best friend’s long-absent mother reappears, and the swallows that make their annual migration to her hometown arrive surprisingly early.

As Groovy begins to expect the unexpected, she learns about the importance of forgiveness and starts to understand the complex stories of the people around her. And, on a night where nothing goes as planned, she is amazed to discover that even a really big shake-up can’t get in the way of a family that needs to come together.

Kathryn Fitzamurice’s tender debut novel is as full of promise as the swallows that return home to San Juan Capistrano every spring.

BIRD REPORTS (Naturalist and Verbal/Linguistic)

Research a bird and describe its physical traits and habitat. Be sure to include information about whether or not the bird migrates.


Swallows and people “migrate” in this book. Groovy’s dad migrates to and from jail, an adult friend migrates to and from and island, and Groovy’s best friend’s mother migrates to and from Mexico. With a partner, ask students to research charitable organizations that help displaced people or animals. As a class, take a vote and narrow the organizations down to three possibilities. Using Skype, interview the presidents of these organizations on the phone to decide which organization is worthy of a donation from the class.

FOODOLOGY (Verbal/Linguistic)

Ms. Fitzmaurice peppers her narrative with beautiful metaphors comparing Groovy’s life to food. On the first page, Groovy compares her house to a chocolate-covered coconut candy, and on the last page, Groovy compares the upcoming year to a chocolate-covered caramel. Write an essay comparing your life to a candy, or make a Foodology list to describe important events in your life just as Groovy did on page 255 of the novel.

MIGRATION GRAPHS (Logical/Mathematical and Visual/Spatial)

After researching a specific bird, have students list their bird’s name and the distance it migrates on the board. Give each student a piece of graph paper and have them graph the miles each bird migrates. Calculate the mean, median, and range of the selected birds’ migration.


Create a diorama of one of the settings in the book such as Groovy’s house, Luis’s store, the jetty, the pier, or the hair salon.


-Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan
-Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
-Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
-My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald
-The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler

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