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Author deftly paints a moving tale

Special to The Recorder

“Painting the Rainbow” by Amy Gordon (Holiday House, 176 pages, $16.95)

Two wars influence the life of an extended family that vacations in New Hampshire every summer in the novel “Painting the Rainbow” by Amy Gordon of Gill. Its publisher recommends the book for children between the ages of eight and 12. Even adults will be moved by this tale of youth, family and history, however.

The book is set in 1965. Cousins and best friends Ivy and Holly gather with the whole Greenwood clan at the family homestead on a lake for their usual summer fun. Almost before they arrive, the two sense that something is off kilter this year, however.

Part of the problem stems from their age. At 13, they are both beginning to come into their own as very different people.

The tension around the family lake isn’t just teenage angst, however. Ivy’s older brother, Randy, is active in the Civil Rights movement and is beginning to question the nation’s growing involvement in Vietnam — and to question the path he has always thought he would take in life.

Moreover, the girls’ parents and grandparents are suddenly more prone than usual to anger. Soon Holly and Ivy realize that the grown ups’ worries are tied to the past. They begin to wonder about their Uncle Jesse, who died during World War II. None of the adults wants to talk about Jesse or the manner of his death.

The girls find themselves stumbling upon clues about Jesse — old journals, letters and works of art that indicate that his death may have had something to do with a Japanese friend of the family.

In learning about Jesse and his generation’s war, they end up learning a lot about themselves and their own generation. They face their own personal demons as they try to slay his.

Gordon deftly weaves her story through different voices, blending diary entries from Ivy and Holly with third-person narrative. Although the book isn’t long, the young protagonists and their family members come across as fully realized, sympathetic characters.

Historical information about both the 1940s and the 1960s is also cleverly incorporated into the story so that young readers will find themselves learning (and wanting to learn more) almost by accident.

Gordon will read from “Painting the Rainbow” and sign copies of the book this Saturday, May 25, at 2 p.m. at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield. The store will have signed copies on hand after the reading as well.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com. For more information about Tinky, visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.

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