Gennari, Jennifer. 2012. My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
In this entertaining and accessible chapter book, twelve-year-old June competes in a pie-baking contest and stands up against bullies during a busy summer in Vermont.
June’s mother’s girlfriend has recently moved in, and June doesn’t particularly like her. Eva doesn’t fit in well with June’s personality and how she likes her home. When June’s mother announces that she and Eva are planning a civil union ceremony, June is worried that Eva will never stop nosing into her life. Another concern is how the other kids—and parents—react to June’s mother being a lesbian. Some kids have started calling June “lezzie” and laughing about her family, and some of their parents have started an anti-civil union group.
Despite mild bullying and annoyance with Eva disrupting her life, June is mostly focused on improving her baking skills. She loves baking pies and enjoys trying new and interesting fruit combinations. When she finds a patch of wild blueberries, she decides to enter a pie contest at the local fair.
This book gently introduces the complex topic of gay marriage and shows various responses, from supportive to neutral to discouraging. June’s character is strong and empowered as she resists bullying, gradually gets to know and appreciate Eva, and bakes pie after pie in preparation for the contest.
Just a few short years after this book was published, same sex marriage is now fully legal throughout the United States. This book captures a slice of time in which civil unions were legal only in a handful of states. Even with the major change in the political-legal landscape, this book is still relevant and useful for children whose parents are bringing new same sex partners into their lives.
The lush pen and ink wash map in the front of the book, the useful baking tips throughout, and the great pie recipe at the end really add to this fun read. My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer was a 2013 Rainbow List selection by the American Library Association’s GLBT Round Table and a Bank Street 2013 Best Children’s Books of the Year winner.
Only one thing stood out as problematic in this book: when June and her friend are playing in the woods, their joyful yelling is described as a “war whoop.” Native American readers and those who are sensitive to this kind of problematic language may be disconcerted by this sentence.