Monday, June 2, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD... IN 65 DAYS by Michele Weber Hurwitz

THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD... IN 65 DAYS by Michele Weber Hurwitz (Wendy Lamb Books/Penguin Random House, April 2014)

What It's About (from the author's website): It's the summer before freshman year in high school and 13-year old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved Grandma died last year; her super-lawyer parents work all the time; her brother's busy with his friends and his job at the pool; and her best friend Jorie is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn't know what her "thing" is yet, it's definitely not shopping and makeup. And it's not boys either. Though, has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?

This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are 65 days of summer. Every day, she'll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her family or neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that people are full of surprises and secrets. In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things might not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better.

Opening Lines:
It starts with Mrs. Chung.
And flowers.
My grandmother believed in what she called STs--Simple Truths. This was one of her favorites: Things happen when they're meant to happen, and the sooner people realize that, the more content they'll be. Most people, she said, don't understand, even when those things are right in front of them."

Why I Liked It: I admit it--Michele Weber Hurwitz is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved her debut, CALLI BE GOLD, which I reviewed in November 2011. I said then that I loved the combination of humor and heart, and THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD... IN 65 DAYS pulls off a similar feat.

Michele Weber Hurwitz has an uncanny ability to get into the mind of a 13-year-old, and Nina's worries about her family, about her friends, and about the neighborhood in which she lives ring very true to life. Each family in the cul de sac--including Nina's own--has problems. For Nina, it's that her parents are workaholics, and her brother seems to have gone off the rails a bit and she feels disconnected from him.

Spurred on by her memories of her grandmother, Nina decides she'll do a good deed for each of the 65 days of summer. Some of the good deeds, like picking up her friend Jorie's lip gloss on the bus and slipping it back into Jorie's bag, seem inconsequential (except that we know Nita has an increasingly complicated relationship with Jorie, who is also interested in the boy that Nita likes.) Others, like helping the injured Mrs. Chung with her mail and her garden, are more practical. What they all have in common, however, is that they bring the neighborhood closer together.

One of my favorite librarian bloggers, Karen Yingling, wrote in her review that THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD... IN 65 DAYS is "pitch perfect for girls on the cusp between middle school and high school. It also made me want to go do random acts of kindness." As I laughed and cried through this wonderful ode to the power of community, I couldn't agree more!

Being the Mafioso I am, I just had to get to know Michele Weber Hurwitz a bit better. Here's how she handled the customary Mafioso grilling:

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?

There are so many authors I love, it's hard to choose. I'm a big fan of Sarah Weeks, Deborah Wiles, Tom Angleberger, and Rainbow Rowell, although she's more YA. My favorite all-time middle grade book is Holes by Louis Sachar.

2) What's on your nightstand now?

Bird by Crystal Chan, and a grown-up book, which I don't read as often -- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I loved her YA book Elsewhere.

3) Pick a favorite scene from your novel, and say why you like it.

It's hard to choose! There's one scene early on where an older neighbor, Mrs. Milllman, calls the police after the main character, Nina, starts doing some of her secret good deeds. That scene is so funny to me, because Mrs. Millman is suspicious and thinks "someone" has been trespassing in the neighborhood. She grows more and more hysterical (in both senses of the word) throughout the book. There's also a pivotal moment in the story when Nina does something in memory of her grandma, who died a year earlier, and the poignancy of that scene gets me every time! And, any scene with Thomas, the five-year old boy in the neighborhood, tugs at my heart and makes me smile at the same time. {Mafioso here: Thomas rocks!}

4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at...

Organizing things! Shelves, closets, desks, you name it and I can organize it in twenty minutes flat. It's a weird talent. More like an obsession. I often drive my family crazy :) {You totally have to come and organize the Don's compound, Michele. He's bound to give you The Order of the Eggplant after that!}

5) My favorite breakfast is...

French toast with berries and maple syrup or a really gooey cinnamon roll. {My wife'll join you in that gooey cinnamon roll...}

6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?

Paris. I took French through high school and college but I've forgotten most of it. I'd love to try to speak the language again, as well as spend time in that beautiful city. {Mais oui, Paris!}

Michele Weber Hurwitz, courtesy of Rinker Photo
About the Author: In my dealings with Michele Weber Hurwitz, I can say she is a lovely person. She has a fabulous website, with a great ABOUT ME page. (where you can learn that she is obsessed with post-it notes, and dislikes tomatoes.) You can also find her on Twitter @MicheleWHurwitz.

Thanks so much, Michele, for answering my questions--and for writing two amazing novels!


  1. Love the whole premise of this story. It's such a great idea that we should all consider doing. Congrats to Michele!

  2. I keep hearing about this one from many respected blogs. Now that my favorite Mafioso has deemed it worthy of my time, I have to take a look. Thanks for featuring.

  3. I did hear a lot about this book. The title alone is enough to intrigue me. Thanks for the fun interview, Michael!


  4. I liked that this was fun and amusing AND had a message. You really need that " spoonful of a sugar" in middle grades.

  5. This is going on my reading list!

    Michele, I drive my family crazy with my organizational skills too. And I donate regularly to keep the clutter away. :-)

  6. Thanks, everyone, for your comments! Barbara, for sure!

  7. I'm a sucker for stories about kindness (I like to think it can change the world. I hadn't heard of Hurwitz before now, so thanks for the review and the interview. I'm heading to her webpage now!

    1. Kim, I tried to find a way to reply to you via e-mail, but had no luck. Thanks for stopping by today and sharing your comment. Much appreciated!

  8. This one is going right on my TBR list. Thanks for telling me about it and for the nice interview.


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