The Silent Boy
This book was a fantastic book to promote Autism Awareness and treating others with respect. There are so many issues that The Silent Boy deals with, from teenage pregnancy to understanding that eventhough people are different, they can still make good friends. I bought this story on audiobook and let the students listen to it. I created a study guide with chapter comprehension questions and vocabulary words and we filled it out together. The other good thing about The Silent Boy was that the author developed it from old photos that she had bought at an antique store. So I went online to oldtimephotos.com and printed a bunch and the students chose one to write a narrative piece about. They loved it. The culminating activity was an assembly where actors came and acted out the book. I did think that the ending was a bit sad and the the author never came out and said that Jacob was autistic, so I had to lead the kids to understand that. To help with that concept, I had a representative from the ARC come speak to the students.
"The Silent Boy" details a year in the life of 8-year-old Katy Thatcher, the precocious daughter of the town doctor in 1911. Katy becomes friends with the brother of her family's hired girl, a strange, silent boy named Jacob. Although Jacob never speaks or even looks at Katy, they share a bond. It is Katy who understands what Jacob was trying to do to help his family-- and action that everyone else perceives with horror.
This book mixes nostalgia with a rather disturbing story. Lowry did this beautifully in "Autumn Street," but "The Silent Boy" falls short. Although it is beautifully written, Katy never becomes a lovable character and too many seams are showing between her pastoral reflections and her disturbing observations.