Boy On the Porch

 
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Boy On the Porch

Sitting under a tree on a sunny August afternoon as my husband explores Day 2 of the battle of Gettysburg, there is a blue haze on the low rise of mountains off in the distance and a field stretching out before me with monuments standing guard along the roadsides. There is a timelessness to Gettysburg as though it's a portal where you stand with one foot in 1863 and one foot in 2013.

This timelessness and the rush and fade of tourists in RVs and cars is where I opened to the first page of this amazing story.

A young couple discovers a boy clad in rough linen sleeping quite soundly on the cushions of their front porch.  The wife, Marta, is sensitive, vulnerable and doesn't want to appear silly in front of her husband, John.   John is hopeful, cautious, solid, reliable and kind.  They have no children of their own.

Where did this boy come from? No one has any answers. He comes with a note filled with misspelled words and scratch outs  asking them to care for the boy until the author can return.   One line of this letter says, "He is a god good boy."  God is scratched through.

What an awesome reponsibility has been placed upon them.   Tenderly Marta holds the boy in her arms.  Cautiously John seeks the right thing to do in the situation that has been thrust upon them. Should they tell the sheriff?  Is someone missing a boy?

In the first chapter, when the boy arrives, there is a distinct feeling that he is more than just an ordinary boy.  There is a big question here.  Is he from around here?   Does he have a family somewhere in the neighborhood?  Does God really live here?

This story will be read by many young readers who will be enchanted with the fact that this boy does not speak but he can be understood.  They will be delighted by his brilliant gifts.  They will find reassurance in his contentment.  They'll take the story in at the surface and it will deliver.

But those readers who open themselves to what lies between the lines and to what is being given to us here, will find this book to be extraordinary.  It holds a powerful, universal message that is not delivered through each word but instead comes through its spirit.

There are authors who write for the earthbound and there are authors who write to the part of us that comes from another place... the place where we are truly born.  Sharon Creech writes to that other part of us.. our true self... and she has reached an entirely new understanding and shared it with us through this beautiful, priceless gem of a story.  

Ages 8-12   151 pages   978-0061892356

Recommended by:  Barb

*********

"People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence"
-- Paul Simon (1964)
 
"Marta wasn't completely convinced that the boy was unable to talk.  She wondered if he just was not ready to talk to them, or if he needed to recover from some horrible experience.  Maybe he simply needed time.  Always, too, at the back of her mind was the worry that the closer they came to know the boy and the more they loved him, the harder it would be to let him go."
 
A boy suddenly appears on the porch of a young couple named John and Marta.  The boy is accompanied by a note that reads, "Plees taik kair of Jacob.  He is a god good boy.  Wil be bak wen we can."
 
The boy takes to the couple's farm as if he's been there forever.  The couple takes to the boy, who gives meaning to their lives.  The boy has a stunning and seemingly innate talent for making music and art, and the couple provide him instruments and art materials to feed his growth.
 
But the boy cannot or does not speak a sound.  Given that the boy maintains his silence, and that the entire story is told from the couple's perspective, there is a growing mystery to unravel.  As the couple falls more and more in love with the boy, their fear of losing him heightens. 
 
For some reason, the young couple has also, previously, had a beagle appear at their farm.  And subsequent to the boy's mysterious arrival, a cow also appears. 
 
The boy learns to ride the cow.  The cow, the beagle, and the rest of the animals at the farm adore the boy.
 
But where did he come from, and do they really only get to be with him for a limited time?  If the boy is taken from them, will they hold onto the openheartedness that they have developed, in part, thanks to the boy?
 
"Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson (1850)
 
Just seeing Sharon Creech's name on an advance copy is good reason to rejoice.  But this hauntingly beautiful story about loving without limits, overcoming fears of loss, accepting that which is, and the sounds of silence, is a truly special and memorable tale. 

 
Richie Partington, MLIS
Instructor, San Jose State University
School of Library and Information Science http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/

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This is a quiet book. It is touching and poignant.
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