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The Things a Brother Knows Hardcover – September 14, 2010

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375844554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375844553
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up–Levi Katznelson's older brother, Boaz, is home after three years as a Marine. He has been changed by the experience, which emerges bit by bit through his behaviors but not through his words. That's because he rarely speaks. He is home, in his room, and doesn't come out often. The radio is on static. He won't ride in cars. He won't see his ex-girlfriend. Levi can hear him screaming at night. The book isn't just about a traumatized soldier; it's about how everyone he knows and cares about is impacted by his changes. When Boaz finally leaves the house and tells the family that there's something that he must do, Levi follows him, not knowing his destination. During the several days that the brothers walk, he tries to reconnect to the brother he loved and possibly to save him from his internal torment. Reinhardt creates fully realized characters with terrifically precise and perfect details and dialogue that brings each moment alive to engage readers' senses. Reading this book is like having a deep conversation with a friend on a long walk. The characters don't seem like characters but feel bigger and more complex, and they live on after readers have turned the page. Reinhardt examines what it means to be a hero, the consequences of war, and what it takes to try to regain one's humanity. A powerful and timely portrait of young men trying to make sense of their lives–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In a Boston suburb, Levi’s older brother, Boaz, has just returned from fighting in “some desert country half a world away.” The U.S. Marines say Boaz is “healthy,” but Levi thinks otherwise; Boaz doesn’t want to ride in a car, sleep in a bed, or even come out of his room, and he dives for cover at unpredictable moments. Levi misses Boaz as he remembers him, before he left two years earlier: a high-school hero; a happy, well-adjusted son and grandson; and a difficult but still-wonderful older brother. Reinhardt’s poignant story of a soldier coping with survivor’s guilt and trauma, and his Israeli American family’s struggle to understand and help, is timely and honest. The clever, authentic dialogue beautifully captures the disparate dynamics of the family, friends, and marines in the brothers’ lives. Indeed, the characters seem so real that they may live in readers’ minds long after the final page is turned. Unlike Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels (1998), about Vietnam, or Sunrise over Fallujah (2008), set in Iraq, this novel is not anchored in a specific war, but Reinhardt sensitively explores universal traumas that usurp the lives of many soldiers and their loved ones. Readers won’t soon forget Boaz and Levi’s search for understanding and the healing power of love. Grades 9-12. --Frances Bradburn

More About the Author

Why don't you have a bio section?

Because I hate writing about myself.

But wouldn't that be easier than answering a whole bunch of FAQs?

Maybe. Probably. Go on...

So where are you from?

I'm from Los Angeles, but now I live in San Francisco. Except for the summers where I go back to Los Angeles in search of the sun.

What are you doing when you aren't writing?

Laundry, usually. Sometimes dishes. And I really like to walk near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Why don't you run instead of walk?

Running is hard. And I'm sort of lazy.

Have you ever had a real job?

Yes. Of course I have. I've waited tables, worked with adolescents in foster care, read the slush pile at a publishing house, and fact checked for a movie magazine. I also worked for FRONTLINE on PBS and Peter Jennings at ABC. I went to law school, which I know doesn't count as a job, but hey, that was a lot of work.

What's your writing day like? Do you stick to a routine?

I like to write in the mornings. Sometimes that means I have to get up really early. I try to write 700 words a day -- about three pages. I know there are lots of writers out there who can write way more than that. I know this because writers like to tell you about how many words they've written on FACEBOOK. So I try not to look at FACEBOOK when I'm writing. And anyway, I've learned that 700 words are about all I'm good for on any given day, and if I write more than that I usually end up getting rid of most of it later.

What, are you lazy or something?

I already told you I'm lazy. But seriously, 700 words are a lot of words. 700 of them, to be precise.

Where do you get your ideas?

From someplace inside my head.

That's not really an answer.

Yes, it is. And it's as honest an answer as I can give.

Are your books autobiographical?

Not really. I'm not adopted, I've never told a lie that sent someone to jail, I've never built a house or had a brother go to war. But there are always things in my books that come from my life or from the lives of the people around me. It would be impossible to make up everything.

Why do you write young adult fiction?

Because I was a young adult when I fell in love with reading and I can remember how books made me feel back then. How they provided both comfort and escape. That might make me sound like a shut-in, but I wasn't. I was just open to the experience books offered, probably more open than I am now as an adult. And I like writing for that sort of audience.

What exactly is young adult fiction?

Lots of people have thought long and hard about this question and have had many intelligent things to say about voice and how YA books can't spend too much time on adult characters, etc. I don't have anything to add to the debate except to say that YA should be a place to go in the bookstore or library if you are looking for a coming of age story, no matter how old you are.

Do you have a favorite book?


Don't be coy, what is it?

To Kill a Mockingbird.

How come there aren't any vampires or wizards in your books?

Hmmmm... good question. Maybe I should write about vampires and wizards.

No, you shouldn't. You wouldn't be very good at that.

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Did you wear a Soupy Sales sweatshirt when you were seven?

Does anybody even know who Soupy Sales is?

That's what the Internet is for. Don't avoid the question.

I'm sorry, is this really a Frequently Asked Question?

No. But, c'mon, tell us anyway.

Yes, I did. But I'm trying to portray myself as someone who wasn't a total loser. So maybe you shouldn't bring that up. And it also makes me sound ancient, which I'm not. Yet I had a Soupy Sales sweatshirt. And I loved it. It was yellow. And really soft.

You're right. It does make you sound like a loser. Especially when combined with your earlier answer about escaping into books.

Well, if it helps, I was also a really good athlete. In fact, I was voted athlete of the year in 1983. Not nationally or anything. Just at my school.

No, that's not really helping.

Well, I also played the electric bass.

Now you're talking. That's cool. Were you in a band or anything?

No. I gave it up after a few months. But I did play it once in public dressed up in a chicken costume.

Okay. I think we might be done here.

You sure? Isn't there anything else you want to know about me?

If I think of anything I can just email you my questions, right?

Right. You can always send me an email to:

Customer Reviews

Very compelling characters in this book.
Jamie Katz
The camaraderie between Boaz and Levi is truly touching and it shows the miracle that understanding can work.
Justo Roteta
The book is told by Levi, the younger brother of the returned soldier, Boaz.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Seventeen-year-old Levi Katznelson doesn't really know his older brother, Boaz, and he sure doesn't understand him. Three years ago, when he graduated from high school, Boaz decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Since then, he's been fighting overseas, growing increasingly withdrawn and distant each time he comes back to visit his family in suburban Boston. Now Boaz is back to stay, but Levi is not sure how he feels about that, or about his brother, or even about the war in which Boaz fought: "I'd say a prayer of thanks, if I were that sort of person, that my brother is returning from this war I don't believe in. This war I can't understand. This war for which nobody should have given up so much, and hurt so many people, and worried his mother down to a sack of bones."

Boaz is hailed by the entire town as a returning hero, of course, especially since he's unusual --- the kind of handsome, charismatic, successful guy from a middle-class background in a prosperous town who could have done anything after high school but chose to join the military instead. As Boaz's ex-girlfriend Christina said when he enlisted, "That's not what people like us do... People who have other opportunities. Who get into Ivy League schools. Who believe in...peace and diplomacy over bullying." Boaz might be both exceptional and heroic to outsiders, but Levi's relationship with him is hardly hero-worship. Although Levi looked up to Boaz, he remembers as many moments of disappointment and disillusion as of admiration and idolization.

Now that Boaz is back home, Levi's conflicting feelings grow ever harder to ignore. Can't Boaz see how much he hurt their mother when he failed to write letters from overseas?
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By AJL Reviews on January 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The psyche of America has been scarred and shaped by war. The Things a Brother Knows helps us understand the effects of war on one family. The "star" older brother, Boaz, leaves home to become a Marine in some unnamed war in some desert land (Iraq?) Told from the point of view of Levi, his younger brother, we gradually learn how each member of the family coped while Boaz was away and how they react when he returns after three long years. However, Boaz's return is not a real coming-home. He stays alone in his room most of the time--brooding, planning, crying, listening to the static on the radio. Finally, Boaz sets out on a journey, walking all the way. Levi doesn't know where Boaz is going, but is determined to follow him. During their journey, the threads of the plot are gradually woven together.
The adult characters are shown in a respectful way, not as caricatures as is so often the case in young adult fiction. Dov, the grandfather, and Abba both grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and served in the army. The family moved to the U.S. because Abba wanted to "raise his children in a melting pot. In the land of opportunity. In a country that wasn't constantly defending its very right to exist." As grim as this story may seem, it's interlaced with deft touches of wry humor: "Zim and Pearl [Levi's staunch friends] have a little healthy competition going on about who's my better friend, a ridiculous sort of contest when you consider the prize." Reinhardt uses apt images and powerful language. Sentences are varied--long or short, lyrical or choppy--depending on the emotion being conveyed. With its poignant themes of "tikkun olam" and of loyalty--to family, friends, and country--The Things a Brother Knows is highly recommended. Winner of a 2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award. For grade 9 - adult.
Anne Dublin
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daisy Whitney on January 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Touching, tender and subtle - the story of Levi's effort to reconnect with his soldier brother Boaz is one of the best books I've ever read. Boaz returns from war and is changed; Levi wants to understand him, but can't. So Levi joins Boaz on a walk from Boston to D.C. in a story that's ultimately about connection - whether two people can or can't connect. Dana Reinhardt conveys with one sentence - sometimes even one word - what it would take lesser writers a paragraph to do. She trusts the reader implicitly to understand the big moments without ever signaling "this is a big moment." And in so doing, the story weaves its way into your heart and under your skin and stays with you long after you've finished reading. A beautiful story about humanity, connection, love and healing that should be read by everyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jen St. Rand (Fictitious Delicious) on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I read a lot of books. And there are a lot of characters is those books that I wish I could be. This may be the first book in which I've been afraid to finish because I felt like I WAS the main character. Let me explain...

At first glance, Levi Katznelson and I have nothing in common. Levi is a 17 year old jewish boy who is still trying to find his place in the world. I am a thirtysomething year old woman who identifies herself as christian with a well established identity. The differences end there. We both have a life that has been indirectly turned upside down because of war. See, Levi and I have brothers who have gone to war and returned as someone that is unrecognizable. We've both expended an enormous amount of energy trying to figure out just what the hell happened to them.

Levi and I have taken different approaches in our dealings with said brothers. Levi takes an active approach and maybe even a more mature way than I have. I've remained silent in my sadness (I haven't spoken to my brother in two years) and I really enjoyed seeing how Levi's situation played out. I almost picked up the phone and called my brother. Almost.

I promise this book is not ALL doom and gloom. There are some laugh out loud parts reminiscent of John Green. I loved hearing the thoughts of a 17/18 year old boy. Always funny! I'm so very thankful Gayle Forman put this book on her list of recommended reads. I would have never found this book without her help.

A final note: There are some very strong political statements in this book, all of which I happen to agree with. Be warned, however, that you may be offended if you have strong feelings about the wars in the Middle East. Even so, read this book.
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