Book: One Lucky Summer


One Lucky Summer

English Book Title

One Lucky Summer


Laura McGee Kvasnosky


Dutton Children’s Books





By: Nicholas Driscoll

Some years ago, during a difficult time in my life, I went through a period in which I wrote a lot of reviews of books only tangentially related to Godzilla or Toho and published them here on Toho Kingdom. These non-Godzilla Godzilla books were mostly obscure titles that had “Godzilla” in the title—things like Godzilla Rabbit (a humor book of short true stories) and Godzilla Meets Master Charge (an anti-consumerism book with hippy overtones), or even the abomination that was Godzilla is in Purgatory (some of the worst writing I have ever seen). I wrote the reviews out of a desire to dig into obscure stuff that I figured no one else would cover, but it may have also been a means to deal with some of the stress in my life at the time. I didn’t really figure many people were actually reading the reviews, let alone actually enjoying them.

So it was with a great deal of surprise when I heard that a new member of TK, Marcus Gwin, was a big fan of my review series, that they were a big not only with him but also with his family, that his mom even at least once read one of my reviews aloud to him for the entertainment value. It really made me happy that my humble and rather silly series of book reviews had given anyone such pleasure. And so Marcus and I became friends and collaborated on some projects for TK and everything was peachy keen.

Marcus, though, asked me to write another non-Godzilla Godzilla book review based on a book he had read in his younger days. The book was called One Lucky Summer by Laura McGee Kvasnosky (actually I helped him track down the title because he couldn’t remember it). Marcus was kind enough to give me a copy of the book. And far be it from me to disappoint my readers. Thus I am indulging in one more review of a non-Godzilla Godzilla book for old times’ sake. I’m also not going to hesitate to go over spoilers, so if you want to go into this book unspoiled, you’ve been warned!

Let’s start with the story. One Lucky Summer (not to be confused with One Crazy Summer, a movie which also has an unlikely Godzilla cameo in it) centers around a young boy named Steven Bennet, an elementary school kid with a taste for baseball and a love of science and animals. Yeah, he’s the kid who has a lizard named Godzilla—a western fence lizard, to be exact. Steven has got the mopes because his family had to move to a new town for his father’s job, which requires him to travel a lot internationally. So his father is off to Peru, and Steven had to leave his friends, so he has a bad case of the gloomy guses. Well, his mom wants Steve to make friends with the next-door neighbor, Lucinda, who is an aspiring ballerina. Steve and Lucinda get off to a bad start right away, but their moms click, and pretty soon both families are planning on a trip to a cabin in a mountainous area called Twain Harte for a week. Steven desperately doesn’t want to go, but he is forced by his mother, and thus instead of moping at home he mopes around in the mountains while avoiding people or not getting along with Lucinda.

Doesn’t this sound like riveting storytelling?

Okay, let me just finish this up. While the two families are staying in the cabin, Godzilla escapes his cage. Steven gets even more mopey as a result and tries desperately to track down his AWOL lizard. Meanwhile, Lucinda wants to enter a “Siamese-twins swimming race” with her friend Allison (an extremely minor secondary character who thinks Steven is cute, but nothing comes of that). Lucinda and Allison get into a fight, and so Lucinda asks Steven…. Yaawwwwn…. Oh, sorry. Lucinda asks Steven to join her in the swimming contest. Meanwhile, there is a big storm and a tree falls over and Lucinda and Steven find a baby flying squirrel inside and name it Lucky (hence the title is finally explained). A dude named Mr. Mori takes care of the squirrel. Lucinda and Steve like the squirrel, though, and they start liking each other, in a platonic way.

Geez, is this story over yet?

The week is going by quickly. Lucinda finds Godzilla and accidentally pulls off his tail. Steven is super happy to be reunited with his lizard, because that lizard means a lot to him. Then, uh-oh, Mr. Mori has to leave to take care of his sister and can’t take the squirrel with him. Lucinda and Steven want to take Lucky with them back home so they can take care of the little furball. Lucinda, however, refuses to ask their moms (for some reason Lucinda’s dad also isn’t in the picture), and she thinks they should sneak Lucky back with them somehow without telling their parents. Steven goes along with her idea.

Then Lucinda has a great idea to save Lucky. Just release Godzilla in the wild and put Lucky in the lizard’s cage! No one will notice! At first Steven objects—he just got his lizard back, after all. But he gives in pretty fast. Seriously, he has had his lizard back for maybe a day, and then he agrees to just let it go again.

That’s it for Godzilla in the story as well.

Then Lucinda and Steven go to compete in the Siamese-twin swim race, wherein one hand and one leg are tied together during the race. They easily win even though they never practiced even once, and others in the race have been practicing all week. (They are disqualified on a technicality, though.) Then on the drive home, when they stop for lunch or something, Steven’s mom finds Lucky, drama ensues, but the children are mildly punished and allowed to keep the squirrel. And Steven and Lucy become good friends.

Hurray, the end.

My summary above was not written with a complete lack of a critical slant, so I presume you, oh faithful reader, can kind of guess where this is going.

First, the characters. Steven and Lucinda both are kind of unlikable. Steven constantly mopes for the first half of the book, and Lucinda constantly sticks her nose in the air whenever she is around him (not because he stinks, but because she is a snob). For his part, Steven antagonizes Lucinda. It’s obvious from the start that they are going to be friends by the end (and that their friendship is in fact central to the story), but I didn’t like either one of them much. And unfortunately there are no other major characters in the story.

Yeah, their moms appear, but they aren’t big to the story. Allison slips in and out of the narrative, but doesn’t do much at all. Mr. Mori (maybe a Japanese character and a nod to the Godzilla films? Yeah, right!) is a quiet nice guy who does nice things, and then he is gone, too.

So we basically get Steven and Lucinda being unlikable for the entire story. Sure, they become friends eventually and start acting reasonably kind, but then Lucinda presses Steven to give up his precious lizard (and the only reason I am reviewing this book at all), Godzilla… AND HE GOES ALONG WITH IT!

Despite the fact that, throughout the whole book up until this point, Steven has been going on and on about what a great lizard Godzilla is, he is constantly drawing Godzilla and taking notes on the lizard in his notebook, he is trying to teach the lizard to come when he plays his harmonica, he is disgusted when Lucinda doesn’t like the lizard, etc., etc. He is overjoyed when he catches the lizard again. Then, after just a bit of pushing from Lucinda, who has been a sort of friend for maybe a day or two by this point, he is willing to up and release his lizard in the wild without even trying to come up with a different method to rescue the rodent? Like maybe… holding the lizard in the car? Or just straight up asking his parents? He just lets the lizard go??!??!? I thought maybe the story was going to reveal that Godzilla had found his Gojirin in the wild while he was loose as a means to justify why the scaly wonder might be happier away from its loving master, but nope.

Then the very next day, after giving this big sacrifice, he has the gumption to enter and win a swimming contest first try, with no practice doing this kind of swimming, with a girl who just forced him to give up his best friend.

I hated the ending of this book. I didn’t like the beginning. And the middle parts only have moments of interest.

There are a few bright lights. Steven’s notebook sketches and notes are included in the book, illustrated by the author, and that’s kind of fun. There were a couple of vocabulary words I didn’t know that I picked up. Steven is prone to flights of fancy, though these flights are unconnected and aren’t that interesting.

Nah, this just isn’t a very interesting book, and in some ways I hate to say that. In the biographical matter for the author, it says this is her first novel, and it is also made clear that the story is partially based on her own life. I just wish she could have made it more interesting, because I just kept waiting for something to happen for the entire story.

As for Godzilla, the book came out after 1998, so maybe the fact that the American Godzilla was apparently mutated from a lizard had some influence on this “version” of Godzilla. I liked to imagine that Steven’s attempts to get the lizard to react to his harmonica may have been a shout out to the Godzilla dance from Invasion of Astro Monster (1965). Unlike the hamster from Godzilla Ate My Homework, this Godzilla is not destructive, and there are no sequences in which the lizard is put amongst model buildings to recreate monster destruction. The name has no deep meaning to the story.

And to be honest I am not the target audience for this book. I am not young enough. But even so, I don’t think the storyline had much thought put into it. There was some foreshadowing that Lucinda would pull off Godzilla’s tail, but Godzilla’s escape and his desire for freedom are not really hinted at, and Steven’s capitulation to free Godzilla comes out of nowhere. While it is hinted that Steven is a good swimmer, the win seems unearned—they never practice together, and when Lucinda practices with Allison, she totally sucks. Even the bits of the story with Lucky feel random. They accidentally find him, and it is by random fate that Mr. Mori has to leave the squirrel to the kids. Steven and Lucinda become friends despite having nothing in common and despite their sometimes open disdain for one another.

I hope Kvasnosky has continued writing and improved her craft. I have nothing against her. But this ain’t a great book, it ain’t a great depiction of Godzilla, and you ain’t having a lucky summer if you have to read this book for school or something. I am exaggerating, but this ain’t great stuff, but for a kid who likes sort of warm, quiet stories, I can think of worse.

Thanks, Marcus! I can’t wait for your review of a non-Godzilla Godzilla book next!