The Year the Swallows Came Early is a small and simple story--another reminder that a book doesn't have to be The Great American Novel to be enjoyable.
Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson loves cooking and plans to go to culinary school just as soon as she's old enough. But even Groovy's thoughtfully—planned menus won't fix the things that start to go wrong the year she turns eleven—suddenly, her father is in jail, her best friend's long-absent mother reappears, and the swallows that make their annual migration to her hometown arrive surprisingly early. As Groovy begins to expect the unexpected, she learns about the importance of forgiveness, understands the complex stories of the people around her, and realizes that even an earthquake can't get in the way of a family that needs to come together.
Swallows reminded me of several middle grade novels I've read in the last couple of years ... A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Waiting for Normal, Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. They have similar flavors. (Strawberry, perhaps?) Short and sweet, some sweeter than others. But Swallows reads smoothly, and while it followed expected lines ("the odds are stacked against our small-town heroine, but she reaches down and pulls through") it didn't stick to all the cliches. .
The prose is smooth and creamy, full of flavor and detail, but not too rambling. The dialogue slides out of each character’s mouth with realistic simplicity.
In the end, I would hand Swallows to a patron over novels like Waiting for Normal and Emma Jean. There was even a fun novel-to-novel connection ... both Swallows and The London Eye Mystery contain a sentence about a crumpled-up piece of paper that's been thrown into a corner, uncurling "as if it wanted to be read." How about that for your daily trivia?