The Silent Boy Book Poster Image

The Silent Boy



A period slice-of-life book.

What parents need to know


Two fires in which people are injured and killed.


A discussion of how babies are made, two teens are seen kissing; later the girl gives birth to an illegitimate child.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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?

Book details

Author:Lois Lowry
Genre:Family Life
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:September 28, 2003
Number of pages:178
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Kid, 12 years old August 18, 2009
I thought the book was sad. There were questions that were unanswered and thats kind of annoying. The Silen boy was a little too slow moving for me. It was only exciting at th end.
Kid, 11 years old August 12, 2015

Thought provoking and well written

Defiantly for the more mature readers. If you have kids who are fans of her other books, sci-fi this is not. Real world problems and bits of history mixed in.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byCeci Joe January 28, 2014

The Silent Boy- Took Me To Another Place

Another one of Lowry's most fantastic pieces. A very moving story of a boy and his life with others. I would only recommend this for VERY mature children who can handle a lot of emotion and understand complex feeling and plots. If the child you're looking for to read this has these qualities, and loves a good read, then I'm positive they will like it. Very dark, tragic story of loss and death.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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