Susan Rowan Masters
Author and Playwright

Teaching Guide: Summer Song

Grades 5, 6, 7, and 8

Dear Teacher/parent: You may find other ways this book has been helpful to discussion and understanding. If you would like to have some of your own ideas considered for expansion to this guide, please e-mail me with your suggestions.

"Etta May, a self-proclaimed magnet for disaster, carries more than her share of burdens. Soon after the death of her beloved grandmother, her grandfather Gent grows too weak from emphysema to tend his cherished roses or take care of the rundown trailer where he and Etta May live. When Etta May realizes that Gent's disease is terminal, she resolves to carry out his last wish: to die in his own bed. She wages a lonely battle against doctors and, even more painfully, the absentee mother she has hitherto seen 'all of nine times.' In the tradition of Where the Lilies Bloom and A Day No Pigs Would Die, this story about love and compromise traces the struggles of a determined child taking on adult responsibilities. Scenes depicting the clash of wills among three generations are balanced with portrayals of familial tenderness and compassion. Masters' quick dialogue adds color, while poignant narrative evokes the frustration, fear and final acceptance experienced in the face of a deep loss." -- Publishers Weekly

Summer Song appeals to a wide audience of young readers, many whom may be facing difficult issues themselves. Because the plot deals realistically about a fractured family and a teen's struggle for control, students can better grasp what Etta May herself finally comes to understand: while we cannot control life, we can affect parts of it. Bits of humor help lighten what could be a heavy tone as it asks readers to think about family, separation, and loss.


Etta May finally came to understand that while we cannot control life, we can affect parts of it. How did this help Etta May resolve what seemed an insurmountable problem? Ask students how it might help with their own lives?