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The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is a great coming of age novel to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, in small book groups, or with individual book studies to explore the character’s path to self-acceptance and the growth to understand what is really important in her heart.

The Summer of the Swans was published in 1970 and went on to be awarded the Newbery Medal in 1971. Betsy Byars is well-versed in tapping into the mind of a young teen while giving empathy to characters who face adversity in a relatable way. Protagonist, Sara is going through all the normal doubts and fears of all 14-year-old girls while also dealing with feelings of grief over her mother’s death, abandonment by her father, and the hardships of having a brother who is disabled.

From the Book Jacket:

Sara’s fourteenth summer was turning out to be the most confusing time of her life. Up until then, things had flowed smoothly, like the gliding swans on the lake. Now she wanted to fly away from everything—her beautiful older sister, her bossy Aunty Willie, her remote father, and, most of all, from herself.

But could she fly away from Charlie? She loved her younger brother in a way she couldn’t understand, though sometimes she grew tired of his neediness. But when Charlie himself took flight, Sara suddenly knew what she had to do….

I offer a complete novel study to accompany The Summer of the Swans for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Swans gliding over water

This book shows the reader how our perspective can change in an instant when the things we truly care about are threatened. Byars’ incorporation of the beauty and fascination with swans is symbolic of the loyal nature of a swan. It helps to show Sara where the true loyalty of her heart lies.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

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