Friday, May 9, 2014

The Silent Boy

One of my students recently gushed to me about The Silent Boy, and I'm reading The Giver to my advisory, so I figured I would check out one of Lois Lowry's lesser known books. It's been in my classroom library for years, but I've always avoided it because of its muted cover and title.

Short and quiet, The Silent Boy is set in the early 1900s, with young Katy telling the events of the year, many involving the Stoltz family. Peggy and Nellie Stoltz are hired girls who have a brother who is "touched". Jacob, the silent boy, is gently and kind to animals, and fascinated Katy. For me, there are some major Of Mice and Men Lenny parallels. As the novel progresses, the Stoltzes become mixed with the families in the neighborhood, with tragic results. My student told me she cried at the end, so I knew something bad was coming, but I was surprised by what it ended up being.

In a way, this is a strange novel because it is written simply enough for middle grade readers, but involves heavy topics like sex and death, and doesn't have the traditional happy ending. Still, I liked The Silent Boy, which is a testament to Lowry's writing. She created a lovable narrator in Katy, someone who celebrates "Fourthofjuly" and has heard her mother refer to something as a "mazing". By filtering the tragedy through the eyes of the child, the reader needs to infer to fill in the blanks, which makes the story sadder and more powerful.

I'm hard pressed to think of which students would enjoy this book; it's too bad because it deserves to be read. My best bet would be to create a book trailer and hope that will entice some readers.

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