Waiting for me when I returned from Washington last week was a UPS package containing a copy of a brand-new picture book—Summer Jackson: Grown Up by Teresa E. Harris. Twenty years ago, when D and I were living in New Orleans, we drove to Disney World to meet up with his family—including his sister and her two little girls, Tania and Teresa. When Teresa discovered I was a writer, she told me she was going to be a writer too when she grew up. And so she is. When D and I reunited recently after 14 years apart, I found out that his niece was eagerly awaiting the publication of her first book. Of course I couldn’t wait to read it, and it’s a stunner.
Seven-year-old Summer Jackson (love the name) is tired of being a child and doing childish things. So she dons a blazer and heels, writes to-do lists, and generally behaves like an up-and-coming young professional. But when she starts collecting cash payments from her fellow students for her consulting work, her parents feel the need to step in. They gently try to dissuade her, but Summer stands firm. Only when Mom and Dad demonstrate the pleasures of childhood by swinging, sliding, and dancing in the backyard does Summer relent—a bit.
Some of the story’s charm lies in what it doesn’t say. No husbands and babies in Summer’s vision of adulthood. This girl want a career! And I love the sly poke the story takes at today’s busy, two-career parents. Letting out one’s inner child, it suggests, provides a good tonic for hard-working professionals of any age and is lots more fun when the whole family joins in.
Summer Jackson: Grown Up by Teresa E. Harris. Illustrated by AG Ford. A Katherine Tegen Book. HarperCollins, 2011.