The Boy on the Porch

 
(i)

 

Wonderful story of mute boy mysteriously left on farm.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The Boy on the Porch shows that a person with a disability might excel in other areas. The mute Jacob has an exceptional ear for and interest in music, and he also seems to have a nearly magical connection to animals. 

Positive messages

At its heart, the book shows how powerful, loving bonds can be formed in the most unlikely situations. John and Marta put aside their doubts and apprehensions about suddenly being "parents," and give their all to the new person in their lives. There's also a strong message about accepting people for who they are, regardless of any disability.

Positive role models

John and Marta are thoughtful and compassionate people who want the best for the mute child who has suddenly appeared in their lives, even though they believe he'll probably leave their care eventually. They figure out ways to communicate with Jacob and try to teach him skills that let him help out on the farm. They also find imaginative ways to engage his interests and make him happy. Jacob is an obedient child who is respectful of his new "parents" and good to the animals that are his constant companions. He also has a profound positive influence on the couple. Jacob's lone friend, Lucy, ignores his disability and accepts him for who he is. 

Violence
Not applicable
Sex
Not applicable
Language
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Consumerism
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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.

Parents say

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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?

QUALITY
 

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). 

Families can talk 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?

Book details

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
Number of pages:151
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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