Middle Grade Review: The Silent Boy


Title: The Silent Boy
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2003. 178 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Katy Thatcher was the bright and curious daughter of the town doctor. She was fascinated by her father's work, and even as a child she knew that she too wanted to be a doctor. She wanted to know about people. Perhaps it was this, her insatiable curiosity, or simply the charm of Jacob's gentle intimacy with animals large and small, that fueled their friendship.

Although Jacob never spoke to her or even looked at her directly, Katy grew to understand him from the moments they spent together quietly singing to the horses. She knew there was meaning in the sounds he made and purpose behind his movements. So when events took an unexpected and tragic turn, it was Katy alone who could unravel the mystery of what had occurred, and why.

A two-time recipient of the prestigious Newbery Medal, acclaimed author Lois Lowry presents a sensitive and moving story of a wide-eyed young girl growing up at the beginning of the twentieth century and the influence of the farm community around her. Through Katy's eyes, readers can see the human face so often hidden under modern psychological terminology and experience for themselves the haunting impact of her friendship with the silent boy.

My Review: 

The book is framed as the reminiscence of the elderly Katy, and begins with the somewhat disconcerting statement that this is a story that she never told her grandchildren, because it isn't a story for children. There's a delicious irony for the opening pages of a children's book! And, of course, the story that unfolds, though told through the eyes of the child Katy was in 1910-12, is one that some might find problematic for children.

What makes it a story for children is that it is all about both Katy finding her own sense of self as she ages from 8 to 9 years old, as well as her ability to see beyond herself and befriend the strange, silent brother of their new household help. It is the open heart that allows Katy to accept Jacob as he is that sets her apart from most other people. And that insight is what will break her heart, because when the blurb says that Katy alone could unravel the mystery, it means that literally--and we all know about how much people listen to 9-year-old girls.

My Recommendation:
This is a story that will probably move kids beyond resistance to historical fiction. The use of real photos at the head of each chapter lends a sense of reality, but the story itself is both wholly formed by the period in which it is set, and wholly outside of any time. Boys or girls should enjoy this for the sake of understanding the silent boy, and the can all cheer on Katy in her desire to break the norms of her time and be a doctor.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Silent Boy out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


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