There are few seasons that elicit quite so much lyricism from children’s writers as late summer, when the days are just beginning to shorten. Maybe it’s a symbolism thing: The end of summer means the end of childhood and innocence, so late summer leaves you right on the bittersweet precipice.
As another summer comes to an unofficial close, here are three passages that capture the warmth and melancholy of this time of year.
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter
Laura sat in the grass to watch [Pa] go once around. The heat there smelled as good as an oven when bread is baking. The little brown-and-yellow striped gophers were hurrying again, all about her. Tiny birds fluttered and flew to cling to bending grass-stems, balancing lightly. A striped garter snake came flowing and curving through the forest of grass. Sitting hunched with her chin on her knees, Laura felt as big as a mountain when the snake curved up its head and stared at the high wall of her calico skirt.
Its round eyes were shining like beads, and its tongue was flickering so fast that it looked like a tiny jet of steam. The whole bright-striped snake had a gentle look. Laura knew that garter snakes will not harm anyone, and they are good to have on a farm because they eat the insects that spoil crops.
It stretched its neck low again and, making a perfectly square turn in itself because it could not climb over Laura, it went flowing around her and away in the grass.
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad monotonous song. "Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying." A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery and Fern Arable heard it as they walked the dusty road. They knew that school would soon begin again. The young geese heard it and knew that they would never be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she sighed. Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur, heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes.
“Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. “How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets. “Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!”