Gut-wrenching is the only way to describe Lois Lowry's first young adult book, A Summer to Die. It is a story of birth and death. Fifteen-year-old Molly Chalmers, who has leukemia, latches onto the young neighbors who are soon expecting the home-birth of their baby. The story is told by younger sister Meg, who feels she is an ugly duckling compared with Molly. Meg's life is both shattered and reaffirmed.
“Her story captures the mysteries of living and dying without manipulating the readers' emotions,” Linda R. Silver said, “providing understanding and a comforting sense of completion.”
The daughter of a dentist who was a career military officer, Lois Hammersberg Lowry spent her childhood mostly with her mother, a teacher. During World War II, her mother took the family to live with her parents in Pennsylvania while her husband served with the U.S. Army Dental Corps in the Pacific. Lowry once observed that her father's absence led her to write strong father figures into her books—she was acting out a fantasy.
By age three, Lowry could read and write, which set her apart from her mates when she began school. A shy child with an active imagination, she was pushed ahead several grades but struggled with arithmetic and other subjects.
In 1948, the family moved to Japan to join their father, who was with the occupation forces there. Lowry spent two years in Tokyo, attending an English-language school with her sister, Helen. She later