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The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech - book review

Publisher's Synopsis: "When John and Marta found the boy on the porch, they were curious, naturally, as to why he was there—and they hadn't expected him to stay, not at first, but he did stay, day after day, until it seemed as if he belonged, running and smiling and laughing his silent laugh, tapping and patting on every surface as he made his music, and painting—with water, with paint, with mud—those swirly swirls and swings and trees.
One day a young couple wakes to find a boy asleep on their porch. Unable to speak, the boy cannot explain his history. What kind of people would leave their child with strangers? All John and Marta know is that they have been chosen to care for this boy. As their connection to him grows, they embrace his exuberant spirit and talents. The three of them blossom into an unlikely family, but how long can their happiness last? From Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech comes a singular story that reminds us of the surprising connections that emerge when generosity prevails."
My Thoughts: I am going to say something that I get so angry at others for saying: I don't think most kids will get this story. I HATE when adults underestimate kids! It is one of my greatest peeves... So let me explain further:
The Boy on the Porch is a well-written, lyrical, spare tale. It is the first 2013 Newbery contender I have read. It draws readers in with the mystery of a boy who doesn't speak and has no story. Once the protagonist couple find some information about the boy, the tale takes a turn more toward the couple's story and drops the boy's mystery, even though it has not been resolved. We learn how the couple become foster parents, loving role-models. Through all the children that grace their lives, they still wonder about that first boy. In the final scene we see the boy again, BUT we STILL don't get HIS story.
Now, adult readers will be fine with this. It's all artsy and deep. We can discuss it in book groups and mull over the themes and quiet beauty that is The Boy on the Porch. And I think, as a class read-aloud, teachers could guide students this way too. But the average non-guided kid will want a resolution. I also think that children lack the background experience to empathize with a childless couple, to understand the wanting in their hearts that is such a part of the quiet beauty in the story.
I cringe as a write that because I am sooooo underestimating young readers, but the readers that will embrace the abstract, minimalism of this story are definitely not the norm. Thus, in the end, this story may end up on only a few cherished shelves. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as a gold-seal award is more about quality than popular demand and silly, silly Twilight drove that home for me years ago.
Recommended for classroom discussions and young readers who enjoy minimalist stories (that rare middle grade student)

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Genre: Realistic Fiction (with a touch of magical realism & mystery thrown in)
Age: 8 and up (intermediate elementary - middle grades)
Pages: 160
Themes: Love without limitations, Dealing with loss, Acceptance, Non-traditional families
Character Development: Very strong on the part of the parents, weak on the boy
Plot Engagement: Mystery propels the story
Originality: Lots of 'mystery boy' stuff recently, especially made into movies - Benjamin Button & Timothy Green)
Believability: Some suspension of disbelief issues with sheriff not being more aggressive in wondering about boy's origin
Thank You: Harper Collins Children's for my advanced ebook
Date: September 2013
ISBN: 978-00618923
Find Sharon Creech reading guides, interviews and more on the Harper Collins website HERE

Sharon Creech is a Newbery winning author. Many of her books are based on her own childhood experiences with her sinlings. Before becoming a writer, she was a teacher. She lives in New York state with her husband.You can read more about her on her website.

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© 2007-2013 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

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