I hope you enjoy – read it or have your kids read it as a little preview of the book. And if they like it, go all the way and buy a copy for that big summer vacation trip you have coming up to give everyone something fun to read! You can buy it here.
(Excerpt from Summer of the Woods: Chapter 6)
July hit Virginia that summer like a furnace. The temperature rose higher and higher, eclipsing one hundred degrees. The ancient air conditioning system in the boys’ house groaned from constant use, and the grass around the yard was slowly turning a crispy brown. It was too hot to play outside, so Sam and Derek spent hours plotting out their search for the missing treasure.
On the fourth, despite their protests to Mom and Dad that they had much more important things to do, the boys dragged themselves into the minivan. Mom assured them that there would be lots of fun things to do when they reached the park for a holiday cookout and fireworks with their aunt and uncle and cousins.
“But Mom, we really don’t have time for this today,” argued Derek.
“Yeah, we have a lot to do,” added Sam. “Very important things!”
“What could you have to do that’s more important than our nation’s birthday?” asked Mom. “How would you like it if we skipped your birthday? Did you know that a lot of important historical events happened right here in Virginia? I’m sure you’ll learn about many of them in school this year.”
“Is this where Lady Liberty lived?” giggled Derek.
“No, but there was a famous speech about liberty delivered by someone named Patrick Henry right here in Richmond,” answered Mom.
“Did he say Liberty and Justice for All?” asked Sam.
“No, that was Superman,” said Derek.
Mom laughed. “No, wise-guys. Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’”
“Whoa, that’s serious,” said Derek. “He must have really loved her.”
Sam gave Derek a strange look.
“You know, Lady Liberty. That Henry Ford guy must have really loved her if he would rather die than live without her,” explained Derek.
“Oh brother,” moaned Sam.
“Patrick Henry,” corrected Mom. “And liberty is not a she – it’s a thing. It means freedom. Which is why we think about it on the Fourth of July, when America declared its independence, or freedom, from England. Patrick Henry argued that Virginia should join the revolution, and they did.”
“Was it a New Year’s revolution?” asked Derek. “Those are really hard to keep.”
Sam looked at his brother again. “Seriously, Derek?” Derek just laughed.
“Here we are!” shouted Dad as they turned into the state park and pulled up next to their uncle’s big pickup truck. Everyone piled out and brought all their food and supplies over to picnic tables under a pavilion for a tasty meal of burgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob.
A little while after the meal, everyone swam out to the middle of the nearby pond and enjoyed the cool water. Sam and Derek’s aunt and uncle had a pair of Retrievers that came along to cool off from the heat, and the two dogs ran and jumped in the water like they were born to swim. The boys threw a tennis ball to each other in the shallow areas, and the dogs jumped back and forth, trying to grab every throw out of the air.
An old wooden platform floated off the far shore of the pond. The kids jumped in and out of the water, judging each other’s best cannonball splash. Uncle Drew said that the water was nearly twenty feet deep. When no one was looking, Derek gathered up his courage and did his very best dive into the water. At first, he was scared, but as he got deeper down, he loved how the water grew ice cold where the sun did not reach. It felt like he’d escaped from the heat into some unknown glacial waters. Derek stayed down as long as he could in the cold water. When it felt as if his lungs would burst, he kicked and pulled with all his strength back up to the surface. When his head broke through, he sucked in the warm air and smiled at the fun.
After everyone had their fill of swimming, the families all dried off and walked over to the other side of the park where the locals gathered for the fireworks celebration. Camp chairs were unfolded and set up in a row. A big blanket was spread out in the grass for the younger cousins to sit on. Derek stared up and watched the last pieces of sunlight slip from the western horizon as the sky faded into darkness.
“Are there going to be screamers?” Sam asked his mom.
“Well, your little cousins might get scared at the loud noise but I don’t know if they’ll scream,” she answered.
“No, not screaming, Mom, screamers! You know, the fireworks that make a squealing sound.”
“We call those screamers, Mom,” said Derek. “There’s also bangers, poppers, boomers, crackers, sizzlers…plus a few more that I forget. You’ll see.”
“Believe it or not, boys, I’ve been to plenty of fireworks. More than you in fact,” said Mom.
Before the boys could answer, everyone was startled by an enormous BOOM that shook the ground.
“That was a boomer, Mom!” shouted Sam. “I felt that one inside my chest!”
“I see what you’re talking about,” laughed Mom, and for what seemed like hours, they all stared wide-eyed as the heavens exploded in color and sound.
Enjoy what you read? Buy Summer of the Woods now!
Illustrations Copyright © 2013 by Melissa Rose