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Wilmoth Foreman (1939-) - Sidelights

summer skunks family jill

Summer of the Skunks, Wilmoth Foreman's first novel, offers a warm tale of sibling bickering and bonding set in the mid-twentieth-century rural South. Told from the point of view of ten-year-old Jill, Summer of the Skunks features "a strong heroine who is likeable for her spirit and earnest nature," wrote Alison Grant in School Library Ten-year-old Jill and her teenage siblings, raised in a loving family during the 1940s, find a new closeness when they face several challenges one summer, including a family of skunks who move in under the family's farmhouse. Journal. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted as well that it is Jill's voice, "with its emotional honesty and growing understanding of her family's dynamics," which shines through the novel. Jill's family includes sixteen-year-old Margo, thirteen-year-old Calvin, five-year-old Josh, and the children's hard-working parents. The children labor hard as well, helping with chores like canning and struggling to milk their temperamental cow, but during the long summer, they find plenty of time for adventures. The summer begins with a family of skunks taking up residence under the family's house, a problem that falls to the children to solve. Jill, Margo, and Calvin also team up to get rid of another unwanted house guest, their mother's lazy cousin, and to provide shelter and support to a family friend who needs their help to defeat his alcohol problem. Along the way, the children indulge in "plenty of lively bickering, along with an array of minor mishaps," John Peters wrote in Booklist.

Foreman told SATA: "My mother always said I needed to have a self-starter installed. Well, it didn't happen. But writing kept inviting me back. Finally, finally I learned a few things about how to write fiction. Or at least one fictional story that one editor deemed worthy of publication.

"Events and people in my first novel, Summer of the Skunks, though fiction, were triggered by memories from a childhood that was basically a happy one. For most of my writing life, I considered that 'normal' childhood to be useless as writing material. But advisors in the Vermont MFA program kept urging me to 'go there.' So I did, and am glad of it, and hope readers are glad, too."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2003, John Peters, review of Summer of the Skunks, p. 1591.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Summer of the Skunks, p. 750.

Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2003, review of Summer of the Skunks, p. 222.

School Library Journal, August, 2003, Alison Grant, review of Summer of the Skunks, p. 159.

ONLINE

Front Street Books Web Site, http://www.frontstreetbooks.com/ (November 11, 2003), "Wilmoth Foreman."

TeenReads.com, http://www.teenreads.com/ (November 11, 2003), Ashley Hartlaub, review of Summer of the Skunks.

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