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The Silent Boy Hardcover – April 28, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (April 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618282319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618282319
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-Katy is a doctor's daughter in the early 20th century, and her curiosity is tolerated, even encouraged. This explains her relationship with the 14-year-old brother of her family's hired girl, Peggy. Jacob is "the silent boy" of the book's title who somehow communicates with animals, but only makes humming and clicking sounds when he is with people. Nevertheless, Katy and Jacob develop an unusual and treasured friendship. As befits a child growing up at this time, Katy is a true innocent and is puzzled by some of the things that happen around her, such as the seemingly sudden appearance of a new baby in her family. The most dramatic incident occurs almost at the end of the book on the night of Katy's 10th birthday, when Jacob disappears along with his sister Nellie's unwanted and unnamed baby. Although Katy intuits that Jacob has brought the child to her own baby sister's nursery to ensure its proper care, Jacob is nevertheless arrested when the infant is found dead. The courts place him in the town's asylum for the rest of his life. The now-retired Docky (the nickname that Katy's young patients gave her) narrates the story as she looks back from 1987 to these main events. Lowry excels in developing strong and unique characters and in showing Katy's life in a small town that changes around her as the first telephones and automobiles arrive. Family photographs, along with some that the author found in a New Hampshire antique store or borrowed from friends, enliven and encourage a deeper response to this very special historical novel.
Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-10. Antique photographs, printed at the head of each chapter, form the framework of this nostalgic family story set in the early twentieth century. Precocious eight-year-old Katy Thatcher already knows that she wants to be a doctor like her father. She lives in a large, comfortable house in a New England town with her loving, smart parents and Peggy Stoltz, a farm girl who helps with housework. Katy loves Peggy, and she's intrigued by Jacob, Peggy's brother, a gentle, silent 13-year-old with a fondness for animals, who is "touched in the head." During a happy year, Katy plays with her friends, accompanies her father on house calls, welcomes a new baby sister, and visits Peggy's family farm, where she learns some of the harsher realities of country life--including the fact that kittens are drowned to control their numbers. She also develops a fragile companionship with Jacob, who she often finds visiting her family's horses. It's in the Thatcher barn that Katy stumbles across a secret that, when later revealed, shakes several families and ends tragically; a baby dies and Jacob is at fault. The photographs of characters and scenes add an interesting, if sometimes contrived, touch, and Lowry's graceful, lively prose is dense with historical details that, although atmospheric, sometimes focus more on Katy's lifestyle than her story. Katy's first-person voice also occasionally seems too mature. But Lowry still manages to create an appealing character in the curious, unusually compassionate girl, layering her story with questions about how families shape lives and the misunderstandings that can lead to heartbreak. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After several years at Brown University, she turned to her family and to writing. She is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader.s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association.s Children.s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at

author interview

Q. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

A. I cannot remember ever not wanting to be a writer.

Q. What inspired you to write The Giver?

A. Kids always ask what inspired me to write a particular book or how did I get an idea for a particular book, and often it's very easy to answer that because books like the Anastasia books come from a specific thing; some little event triggers an idea. But a book like The Giver is a much more complicated book, and therefore it comes from much more complicated places--and many of them are probably things that I don't even recognize myself anymore, if I ever did. So it's not an easy question to answer.

I will say that the whole concept of memory is one that interests me a great deal. I'm not sure why that is, but I've always been fascinated by the thought of what memory is and what it does and how it works and what we learn from it. And so I think probably that interest of my own and that particular subject was the origin, one of many, of The Giver.

Q. How did you decide what Jonas should take on his journey?

A. Why does Jonas take what he does on his journey? He doesn't have much time when he sets out. He originally plans to make the trip farther along in time, and he plans to prepare for it better. But then, because of circumstances, he has to set out in a very hasty fashion. So what he chooses is out of necessity. He takes food because he needs to survive. He takes the bicycle because he needs to hurry and the bike is faster than legs. And he takes the baby because he is going out to create a future. And babies always represent the future in the same way children represent the future to adults. And so Jonas takes the baby so the baby's life will be saved, but he takes the baby also in order to begin again with a new life.

Q. When you wrote the ending, were you afraid some readers would want more details or did you want to leave the ending open to individual interpretation?

A. Many kids want a more specific ending to The Giver. Some write, or ask me when they see me, to spell it out exactly. And I don't do that. And the reason is because The Giver is many things to many different people. People bring to it their own complicated beliefs and hopes and dreams and fears and all of that. So I don't want to put my own feelings into it, my own beliefs, and ruin that for people who create their own endings in their minds.

Q. Is it an optimistic ending? Does Jonas survive?

A. I will say that I find it an optimistic ending. How could it not be an optimistic ending, a happy ending, when that house is there with its lights on and music is playing? So I'm always kind of surprised and disappointed when some people tell me that they think the boy and the baby just die. I don't think they die. What form their new life takes is something I like people to figure out for themselves. And each person will give it a different ending. I think they're out there somewhere and I think that their life has changed and their life is happy, and I would like to think that's true for the people they left behind as well.

Q. In what way is your book Gathering Blue a companion to The Giver?

A. Gathering Blue postulates a world of the future, as The Giver does. I simply created a different kind of world, one that had regressed instead of leaping forward technologically as the world of The Giver has. It was fascinating to explore the savagery of such a world. I began to feel that maybe it coexisted with Jonas's world . . . and that therefore Jonas could be a part of it in a tangential way. So there is a reference to a boy with light eyes at the end of Gathering Blue. He can be Jonas or not, as you wish.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#46 Overall (See top 100 authors)
#8 in Books > Teens
#45 in Kindle eBooks
#46 in Books
#8 in Books > Teens
#45 in Kindle eBooks
#46 in Books

Customer Reviews

The bulk of the story takes place in 1911.
It's a profound story of curiosity, freindship that goes beyond what the heart can take, and growing up.
And it's a book any adult could enjoy also.
Mary Ledbetter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Meyer on April 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just got this book from Amazon today, I read it straight through. Lois Lowry has done it again! I think this book also deserves a Newberry Award. The story is told from the point of view of Katy Thatcher, the curious daughter of a doctor, but it's really about the lives of three families, The Stoltz Family, The Bishop Family, and The Thatcher Family, and especially about Jacob Stoltz. Nowadays, Jacob would have been diagnosed with Autism (neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain), but in the early 1900's people just knew that he was different, but that matters little to Katy, who connects with him and feels an understanding with him. I reccomend this book for middle school and up, possibly mature fifth graders, but some of the little nuances aren't really appropriate for kids much younger than that.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "nabbott6" on May 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
can build a whole world of the early 1900's in just 178 pages, create characters you remember long after you've closed the book, and say all kinds of important things while gently telling a story?
I loved the relationship eight-year-old Katie had with her father. We never doubt that Katie will become a doctor one day because of his patient and gentle teaching. Of course the new baby will not be found in the garden patch! It is because of his kindness and openess that Katie is able to befriend the silent Jacob.
Everything seems innocent through Katie's eyes. Taking the new hired girl from her family, the hard lesson her sister Nell, who wants to be a film star, has to learn, the fire at the mill. Even the tragic misunderstanding that puts Jacob into the asylum. Katie has taken the harsh edge from all, and left us to ponder.
But that is how I know it's a great book... How long afterward I am still pondering.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
When you start reading about Katy Thatcher, she might remind you a little bit of another long ago American girl, Laura Ingalls. Like Laura, Katy has a nascent kindness and innocence and a particular way of accepting life around her for what it is, neither good nor bad, just life. Like Laura, Katy has a strong, direct and healthy relationship with her father, here a small town doctor instead of the homesteader that Pa Ingalls had to be to fit in with his time and place. But if Ingalls had been a doctor, he might well have been like Dr. Thatcher. Into their lives comes--the silent boy.

The silent boy isn't silent because of shyness, though Katy is especially kind to him because of her innate goodness and feeling that he might respond to her overtures and break through his reserve. He has some sort of autism which, as Dr. Thatcher observes, is like nature, neither good nor bad, just a fact to be reckoned with. (Medical science wasn't as developed back then as it is today, as the now grown old Katy realizes from her present day perspective.)

It's a touching tale of growing up, and of failure to grow. And it's also sort of brutal and chilling.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Liz B. on January 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An old woman is telling a story; the way your grandmother would. Leafing through the family album, she pulls out a picture and tells a bit about the people, the buildings, when the picture was taken. But its not a random; there is a bigger story here. A story of childhood long ago, of becoming a "grown up", of the hard decisions and facts that make up a life. The use of photos and words is flawless; its a surprise to learn in the author's notes that the photos are old, not recent creations for the story. Beautiful, haunting, lyrical.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Dunlop on April 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth book I've read by this author, and I've enjoyed all but Messenger. (That seems like a weak retry to tell a similar story to the wonderful Giver.)
I'd say this about all her books, but most especially this one: This tale is NOT for children. I know that a lot of today's children know most "adult secrets" by the age of six or seven, but nevertheless this book is just too strong. A child who can "handle" its story line will probably be too jaded to be moved sufficiently by it, and an innocent child shouldn't be allowed to read such a haunting, innocence-destroying book. This is really an "adult" book about child characters, and at that it excels.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on July 6, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This story opens in June of 1987 with the then 85-year-old Katy relating her girlhood at the turn of the 20th century.

The flashbacks start in 1908 with the then-nearly 6-year-old Katy, her friend Jessie and Kate's future fiance, Austin. The trio remain lifetime friends.

The bulk of the story takes place in 1911. Katy, then nearly 9 learned what the word "maternity" means when she reads it in a dress catalog; her sister Mary is born that year and Nell, a farm girl comes to stay with Katy's family as a helper. Nell comes from a large family and her brother Jacob, 14 has been called "touched" as in "touched in the head." In today's world, Jacob would most likely be considered to have a form of autism.

Largely nonverbal, Jacob wears the same hat; enjoys the company of animals and retreats from people and noises. At best, he stands quietly when Katy shares the news of her day with him.

Katy's father is a delightful character. A country doctor, he often takes his daughter on his rounds. A feel and flavor of small town America is beautifully portayed in their horse-and-buggy trips. Jessie's family is proud to be the first on their street to own a $900 Ford, then a rarity.

Katy's father lets her come with him to the Asylum, a gray stone monstrosity on the edge of town. I like the intelligent discussions and honest answers he gives her; he tells her where babies really come from; I like the compassion he displays towards people in the Asylum. He is a remarkably astute man who understands Jacob's behavior such as the boy's rigid adherence to routine and how that, and his ubiquitous hat make him feel safe.

The story of Jacob closes on a sad note. He gives Katy a kitten and applies this act to an unrelated situation.
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