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The Silent Boy    by Lois Lowry order for
Silent Boy
by Lois Lowry
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2005 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The black-and-white period photos used by Lowry before each chapter of The Silent Boy are vintage, adding a special touch to the story setting. Katy's interests tend more to people who need things as opposed to those who have things, and she aspires to become a doctor like her father, Henry Thatcher. A very compassionate and discerning youngster, Katy believes that Father could have saved Beth in Little Women, if he had been there in time.

Katy travels with Father to farms, mills, hospitals, and homes. He teaches her about sutures, cut nerves, muscles, and especially where babies really come from - not 'the tomato patch' as she was told by others! After Katy's sister Mary is born, her parents hire fifteen-year old Peggy Stoltz from a local farm family for household help. Peggy's brother Jacob is 'the silent one'. Waiting outside the Asylum with the horses, Katy hears screams coming from the building. Father explains the condition of the patients as 'Ill in their minds ... hurting inside their own heads'. Father explains Jacob's mental state, and why he always wears a cap, pulled over his eyes, does not look at others, but makes sounds like 'shoooda, shoooda, shoooda'. On the night of Katy's ninth birthday, tragedy changes many lives, as fourteen-year old Jacob disappears.

In Lois Lowry's 'Prologue 1987' to the story, Dr. Katy reflects back on her life and career, especially on the boy Jacob Stoltz. At the turn of the twentieth century, farming and millwork were the mainstay of livelihood, and doctors made home visits in horse and buggy. Ford introduced the first motorcars, with their 'rough staccato sounds like gargling', and the need to wear 'goggles and a duster long coat for protection', from soot that is!. Lowry takes readers on a voyage back in time - 'the mill had its own noises: the rushing noise of the water, the creaking of the wheel ... the crunch of gravel under the wagon wheels, the clop of hooves - mules and horses'. She shows us Katy awakening one morning to 'Snow! ... I could feel the silence of it ... now it was a different kind of cold, a quiet kind.'

Lowry's story awakened remembrance of things from my own childhood in this nostalgic story, like the days of shared telephone services when a certain number of rings indicated it was a call for your home, or riding in a motorcar, with a rumble seat in the back. The 2005 edition contains a Readers Guide, and A Conversation With Lois Lowry, in which the author says, 'though the story is about him Jacob ... It is Katy, the narrator, who has the keenness of understanding and recollection to tell his story ... it becomes her story as well ... it is true that Jacob is the outsider in this book. Those who are set apart for some reason are always fascinating characters for a writer to explore.' Read The Silent Boy; it's a touch-your-heart-and-mind story.

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