Summer of the Swans

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Summer of the Swans
Sswans s-1-.jpg
Early edition cover
Author Betsy Byars
Illustrator Ted CoConis
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's novel
Publisher Viking Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-14-031420-2
OCLC 7176007
Fic 19
LC Class PZ7.B98396 Su 1981

Summer of the Swans is a children's novel by Betsy Byars about fourteen-year-old Sara Godfrey's search for her missing, mentally challenged brother Charlie. It won the Newbery Medal in 1971.

Summer of the Swans was adapted for television as Sara's Summer of the Swans in 1974.


Sara Godfrey: the protagonist, who is convinced that her fourteenth summer is "the worst summer of her life". She and her two siblings have been living with their Aunt Willie ever since their mother died six years before (their father works in Ohio and only visits on occasional weekends.) Sara is portrayed as a very superficial girl, obsessed with the way things (especially her body) look, and constantly frets about her feet, which she believes are too large. She seems to hold grudges easily; for example, her grudge against Joe Melby, a boy whom she once conflicted with at school. Sara is the closest in her family to her younger brother, Charlie (She is very protective of him and sometimes has to defend him against bullies.), and resents her sister Wanda's beauty.

Charlie Godfrey: Sara's ten-year-old brother, mentally handicapped since his brain was ravaged by a high fever at the age of three. He cannot speak (he is able to speak in the TV special version), although he can understand all that is said to him and can nod or shake his head in response. Although ten, he cannot draw and writes certain letters backwards. He enjoys listening to the ticking of the watch he always wears, although he cannot tell time. He loves watching the swans in the lake near their house; this eventually leads to his disappearance. Of all the members of his family, he appears closest to Sara. He also can make noises.

Wanda Godfrey: Sara's nineteen-year-old sister. Sara is very jealous of her, as she believes Wanda is beautiful (though it is Aunt Willie's opinion that they look exactly alike). Wanda works at the local hospital, and had a boyfriend called Frank. She is generally exasperated by Sara's constant self-criticism.

Willamina "Aunt Willie" Godfrey: Sara's aunt, her father's sister, who has been looking after her nieces and nephew since the death of their mother six years previously. Aunt Willie seldom listens to what the children have to say, and is extremely stubborn when it comes to changing her mind. It is implied that her age is somewhere above forty.

Joe Melby: a boy around Sara's age who attends the same school she does. Sara has hated him ever since an incident where Charlie's watch went missing, and she believed Joe had taken it. Eventually she discovers she was wrong and forgives him. Joe helps Sara find Charlie, and at the end of the book invites her to a party.

Mary Weicek: Sara's best friend who helps her out with everything possible.

Sam Godfrey: Sara's father, who works in Ohio and only visits on occasional weekends. Sara views her father as she would a stranger. He is not the same loving person he was.

Television adaptation[edit]

Summer of the Swans was filmed as Sara's Summer of the Swans for an ABC Afterschool Special broadcast October 2, 1974. It was directed by James B. Clark, with a teleplay by Bob Rodgers.[1]


(Brady Bunch costar Eve Plumb also appears in the TV special as Gretchen Wyant, a popular, pretty girl whom Sara also hates. Gretchen has no role in the book except for a story related by Sara in which Sara sprayed her with a garden hose for calling Charlie a "retard.")


Preceded by
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH