The Silent Boy
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that children may wonder what's wrong with Jacob, as it is never made clear. There are a number of disturbing events, such as the Shirtwaist Factory fire, and the way the pregnant girl acts and is treated, that they may want to discuss. Because the narrator doesn't fully understand the events as they are happening, your children may not either.
What's the story?
Great-grandmother Docky sets down the story of her childhood, from ages six to ten, when she befriended Jacob, a strange mute boy, brother of her family's servant girl, who had an affinity for animals. Katy, as she was called then, was fascinated by her father's medical practice, and dreamed of one day being a doctor like him.
Jacob roams over the town and countryside, making friends with animals, and Katy often finds him in her family's stable with their horses. Though he doesn't speak, or even look at her, she comes to feel she understands him. Meanwhile she describes her life as the privileged and precocious child of a loving family in the first decade of the 20th century, a life that includes much that she doesn't fully understand at the time. But when Jacob disappears with his sister's newborn illegitimate baby, she may understand more than anyone else.
Is it any good?
Except for the tragic events at the end of the story, this is more a slice-of-life than a plot-driven story. Young readers with patience will be rewarded by a vivid picture of an earlier time in a small town, when cars were making their first appearance, those who had phones shared the lines with other families, and doctors spent their days (and often nights) traveling around to the homes of those who needed them.
The author has chosen period photographs to illustrate the story, some from her own family, and some bought at antique stores. Along with Katy's narration, they give the book the feeling of a family artifact. For children who need action and adventure, you'd best pass this one by. But for those who love a story of when their parents or grandparents were young, this will be a pleasure.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Jacob and Katy. What do you think is wrong with Jacob? Do you know any children similar to him? Why is Katy drawn to him? How do you think Jacob would be treated by the world today?