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The Silent Boy (Readers Circle) Mass Market Paperback – January 11, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-The Silent Boy (HM, 2003) by Lois Lowry (The Giver, Number the Stars) recounts the early 20th century childhood of Katy Thatcher and her special relationship with an autistic boy. Lowry subtly recreates the lifestyle, customs, and attitudes of the time period, weaving well-researched details seamlessly into the narrative. Told as a flashback by an elderly Katy, this poignant work of historical fiction is read superbly by actress Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Perfect Storm). Her gravelly yet soothing voice perfectly suits the elderly Katy Thatcher. Allen captures the playful innocence of young Katy, the patience of her deep-voiced father, and the quiet strength of her mother, while her voice is weighted by years of sorrow. There are a handful of awkward moments in the flow of the reading, but not enough to detract from the story. Background music plays at the close of the final chapter. The overall aural quality is excellent. Middle school girls will especially appreciate this insightful and compelling audiobook. While well-handled, the tragic ending may upset younger or more sensitive listeners.
Leigh Ann Rumsey, Penn Yan Academy, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Readers Circle
  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (January 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440419808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440419808
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Is there anything Lois Lowry can't do? Her Anastasia series is light and funny, but she's also won two Newbery awards - for "Number the Stars," a historical novel set in Denmark during World War II, and "The Giver," one of the finest works of dystopian fiction ever written, and certainly the best for young readers. In "The Silent Boy," Lowry's ability to bring the past vividly to life is again on display, along with her darkly luminous moral vision.

"The Silent Boy" is a tragedy - not only in the sense of having an unhappy ending, but in the classical sense, in which that particular course of events rises naturally and inevitably from the personal characteristics of the people involved. True tragedy is unfortunately rare in literature these days, but Lowry gets it perfect in this tense and lovely novel.

The tragic figure in this story is the titular "silent boy," Jacob, a teenager who today would most likely be diagnosed as autistic. He has a gentle way with animals, a gift for mimicking sounds, and a sort of kinship with certain inanimate objects (the grindstone at the mill, the hat he always wears, a pair of shiny marbles), but never speaks and spends most of his time alone. His story is told here through the eyes of Katy Thatcher, a bright eight-year-old who aspires to follow in her father's footsteps and become a doctor. Although her father encourages Katy's curiosity, she is still quite sheltered. Blessed with a compassionate heart and a precocious understanding of human nature, Katy forms a sort of quiet, harmonious bond with Jacob, but at first she is only dimly aware of the connections among the people in her life as the events of the tragedy are set in motion. In the end, however, she is the first, and perhaps the only, one to recognize the whole truth.
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