Top critical review
Leans Too Sad for My Taste
Reviewed in the United States on March 9, 2013
This review refers to the 2013 release of The Night Swimmers by Open Road for Young Readers. I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced review copy of this title.
Betsy Byars originally released this story in 1980 and it won the National Book Award in 1981. It is a story of three siblings trying to deal with the death of their mother and the absence of their father. He is a country music singer looking to hit the big time. He is gone every night and is oblivious to what his kids are doing while he's gone.
Night Swimmers is primarily a story about the siblings facing reality - no one is concerned about them, they have no one watching over them, and they feel no one loves them. At times, they don't even care for each other.
I can see how this book won an award. There are many themes and deep elements that will get students talking. I unfortunately found it to be one of those middle grade books that lack any positive or happy moments. Beginning to end - bickering, fights, sadness, dead parent, mean teachers, new school, etc. I just can't give a book more the three stars when this happens.
Themes of this title are: siblings, growing up, responsibility, doing the right thing, belonging, dreams of a better life, what makes a family, kids acting as parents, dealing with loss, and letting go.
If you are interested in knowing the reading level - Night Swimmers has a Lexile Measurement of 860L. It also has a glossary at the end of the story.