I read this slim text in two sittings – the story was that compelling. Jackson’s parents take in a foster child with a devastating backstory. As 13 year old Joseph adjusts to farm life and the rural community he shares his story with the family and carefully tests the waters – can he trust them? Will they help him find his newborn daughter? Jackson learns much about himself and is tested again and again by Joseph, the community, and the system they are all struggling with.
It’s being marketed to ages 10-14 but I truly think the audience is older. The two main characters are in grades 6 and 8, but the plot is definitely more mature than that. I would not give this book to a 5th or 6th grader.
I find Gary Schmidt’s writing so beautiful and poetic. Here’s an example:
“It stayed cold that Monday, and even though it was pretty bright out, there were snowflakes drifting in the air that afternoon again, drifting like they didn’t care if they landed.”
I also find the writing to be spot-on funny:
“…the halls were empty except for Mr. Canton, who is the kind of the vice principal who really wanted to be a seargant in a foreign war zone, but he missed out so he’s patrolling middle school halls instead.”
Read the first chapter here
Source: Public Library
Audience: 7th grade and up