A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Boy on the Porch is an easy-to-read, simple-to-follow chapter book by Newbery Medal-winning author Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons). It's about a young mute boy who unexpectedly turns up asleep on the front porch of a childless couple's farmhouse, with a note asking that he be taken care of until the unknown writer of the note can return to get him. The tension in the story comes from the boy's new caretakers struggling to provide a loving and stimulating home while also trying to find who left the boy. The book could provoke fears of abandonment -- who leaves a child on the porch of a stranger's house? -- but the couple is so thoughtful and kind, and the boy's life with them so idyllic, that the overall tone is mostly positive. There are scenes of frustration and anxiety for both the couple and the boy but no violence at all. The story's resolution might be emotional for some kids -- and parents -- and not what they were expecting.
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What's the story?
A young childless couple living on a farm wake one day to the sight of a 6- or 7-year-old boy sleeping on their front porch. A nearby note asks them to care for \"Jacob\" until they are able to come back and get him. The couple, John and Marta, quickly discover that Jacob is mute, but they learn as the days pass that he has an uncanny affinity for music, and he also seems to be able to communicate with the many animals around the farm. While John and Marta do everything they can to make Jacob's life happy and to provide a loving home, they know he'll probably not be with them for long, and they feel it's their responsibility to search for whomever left Jacob with them. What should they tell their neighbors and people in town about how this unusual but remarkable child came into their care? What will happen if and when the writer of the note returns for Jacob?
Is it any good?
This wonderfully told story is, at its core, a mystery: Who is the boy on the porch, and where did he come from? Sharon Creech does a superb job of building tension as the story progresses, balancing vignettes of the boy's happy life on the farm with scenes of the anxious search for his identity.
The chapters are short and the prose simple and straightforward -- much like the humble country people it depicts. Yet there's also a realistic complexity to the main characters, and it's easy to relate to their shifting emotions as situations and circumstances change. This is a great book for young readers, who will enjoy both the story and the mostly fond depiction of rural life (in an unspecified year).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about John and Marta's decision to keep the details about Jacob's identity -- or what little they know about him -- from their friends and people in town. Should they have told the sheriff the truth right away?
The only modern conveniences mentioned in the book are cars and telephones. Do you think it would be hard to live in a world with no televisions, computers, or cell phones? Would you like to visit or live on a farm?
If a boy like Jacob showed up at your house to stay for a while, what would you teach him? How would you communicate with him?
What do you think happens to Jacob after the main story ends? What effect do you think Jacob has on John and Marta?
- Author: Sharon Creech
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: September 3, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 151
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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