Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Silent Boy

The Silent Boy

Lois Lowry
For ages 10 and up
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2003   ISBN: 978-0618282319

It is the turn of the century and Katy Thatcher is slowly but surely growing up. She tells us about how simple her life used to be when she was little. There were birthday parties and games with her friends, parents who loved her, and the innocence of early childhood.

Then things start to change. Katy discovers that she is going to have a little brother or sister. A young country girl called Peggy is hired to help out in the house, and Katy meets Peggy's brother, Jacob. Jacob is what the locals called "touched". He is a silent, odd boy who is mentally handicapped. Though he does not speak or interact with people much, Jacob has a wonderful way with animals. Dogs and cats, horses, and sheep all trust and respond to him. Katy realizes that Jacob is a special, kind boy and she befriends him.

Bit by bit Katy learns about Peggy and her family. Peggy's sister Nellie is the hired help next door, a pretty, bouncy girl who dreams of being in the movies and becoming a glamorous star. She wants to get away from farm life and her family. We 'watch' as Katy discovers that there is sadness and disappointment in the lives of those around her, a sadness that she knows is there but cannot quite fully understand.

At the very beginning of the book, Lowry presents us with the image of a special place. This is the "Asylum," a forbidding building on the outskirts of town where those who are sick in their heads go. We somehow know that the asylum will play a part in Katy's story, but it is only at the end that we find out how. There is a consistent sense of foreboding that sweeps us on, until we get to the stunning conclusion of the tale.

Beautifully written with a deep understanding of what the world was like at the turn of the century was like, Lois Lowry has yet again produced an exceptional book. Black and white photographs as the beginning of each chapter give us images of the people and places she writes about.