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 Saturday Boy is about an 11-year-old named Derek whose father, an Army pilot, has been stationed in Afghanistan for years. They rarely see each other, but his father tries to stay close with regular letters home. Derek is prone to emotional outbursts when provoked -- yelling, vandalizing a wall with insults -- and is well acquainted with the school principal. Derek gets into a violent fight and fantasizes about exacting revenge on a bully. There's some swearing ("damn," "hell," "for Christ's sake") and coarse middle school language and insults ( "badass," "buttholes," "crap," "lame-ass," and more). A significant character dies.
What's the story?
Derek Lamb is trying to be good, but trouble keeps finding him. Usually it comes in the form of his ex-best friend, who now taunts him mercilessly -- yet it's Derek who keeps getting in trouble. Derek finds comfort in the many letters from his father, an Army pilot who has spent years in Afghanistan. The letters help, as do the love and patience of his mother and aunt, and even the small kindnesses from other adults in his life. But more than anything, Derek wants his father back home.
Is it any good?
THE SATURDAY BOY is a deeply felt story of a boy unmoored. Powerful emotions are at play, but author David Fleming uses restraint to great advantage. He steers clear of maudlin scenes and lets understated prose capture the view of a boy on the verge of growing up. The lonely, insecure narrator is on the immature side of 11, enjoying superhero and ninja play while his peers start acting the part of middle-schoolers. Derek has a reputation for being a difficult kid at school (his classmates, he learns, think he's weird), but he's assured by people who love him that he's a good kid who'll turn out just fine.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Derek's knack for getting in trouble. His mother tells him that just because something isn't his fault doesn't mean he's not at fault. What does she mean?
Do you know anyone with a parent away from home in the Army, Navy, or Marines? Does The Saturday Boy help you understand how that might feel?
Derek loves watching TV and gets very upset when his mother revokes his TV privileges. TV helps him relax and escape. What do you think of his TV habits? Do you ever use TV to escape?
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