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The Summer My Father Was Ten illustration
The Summer My Father
Was Ten

Written by Pat Brisson
Illustrated by Andrea Shine
Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, PA 1998
4+ years

A young girl helps her father plant a garden. There is much more to the occasion than tilling the soil. There is a tradition at work here as well, one that involves the telling of a story. The father has a childhood memory he has to share, a story of the summer of his tenth year and the fateful meeting with Mr. Bellevista.
spacer Mr. Bellevista had a garden adjacent to the empty lot where boys liked to play baseball. The boys ridiculed the old man sometimes, calling him Old Spaghetti Man. Nevertheless, working in his garden was an important part of his life. Then one of the boys hit a ball under a tomato plant, putting a thoughtless prank into motion. The prank escalates into mindless destruction until the entire garden is utterly destroyed.
spacer When Mr. Bellevista arrives, his only question is "Why?" The young girl, the narrator for the story, tells us, "My father's friends all went away, leaving my father and Mr. Bellevista alone in the lot. My father wanted to go over and tell his neighbor he was sorry, but his feet were like heavy stones holding him there." This moment of courage and the act of atonement that follows bring the old man and the boy together in a relationship that lasts a lifetime.
spacer Andrea Shine's watercolor illustrations splash across the page in vibrant colors. She uses a two-page canvas stretched to all edges of the paper. Her attention to detail gives added depth to Pat Brisson's lively prose.

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