The Crying Rocks

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Crying Rocks Book Poster Image
Slow-paced book about tough issues has supernatural spark.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids may enjoy rereading this book and trying to deduce what's real from what's not.

Positive Messages

Coming-of-age messages as Joelle begins to explore her past and learn about her identity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joelle and Carlos cope with their pain through a friendship with each other.

Violence

It is loosely implied that a mother commits suicide by jumping out of a building with her ill baby daughter rather than let her die in the hospital. Some mildly creepy scenes in the forest. Suffering of the Narragansett people in a long ago massacre and Joelle's foster mother tells her at one point she lived with a crazy woman who mistreated her.

Sex

Uncle Vernon has an illegitimate child.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the book raises coming-of-age themes as Joelle begins to explore her past and learn about her identity. It mentions some difficult issues, including suicide, illegitimacy, and family secrets. There is a boy/ girl friendship at its heart, and Joelle and Carlos cope with their pain through a friendship with each other.  It has some magical elements, and kids may enjoy rereading this book and trying to deduce what's real from what's not.

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What's the story?

Joelle can't remember her life before she was adopted at the age of five. Her adoptive mother, Mary Louise, provides a few strange details that don't really make sense or hang together, such as that she traveled alone on a freight train, and lived for a while in a box in the railyard with a crazy woman. Joelle's growing friendship with Carlos introduces her to his fascination with the Narragansetts, an Indian tribe that lived in their area hundreds of years ago. There are disturbing and conflicting rumors about them, and their research only turns up more contradictions. But Carlos has family secrets too, and an old homeless woman, who is rumored to be an Indian queen, may hold the key both to their quest and to Joelle's past.

Is it any good?

This book is slower and more thoughtful than many of Jane Taylor Lisle's others, and only patient, experienced readers are likely to be drawn in. Lisle specializes in two themes: the hint, usually unexplained, of fantasy or the supernatural in everyday life, and shifting perspectives that keep both characters and readers guessing about what's true and what isn't. Both are at play here.

It's a mystery of sorts, and discovering the truth will keep some readers turning the pages. Others will find the lack of action or vibrant characters dull. It has its moments, but it lacks the visionary lyricism of Lisle's best work.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Joelle's search for identity. How has the mystery surrounding Joelle's past influenced who she is at the start of the book? How does everything she learns change her?

  • What did you think about the fantasy or supernatural elements of this book? Do they add or take away from Joelle's story?

Book details

For kids who love tween books

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