(You can tell it is the end of the year and I am trying to read all the Newbery hopefuls before the ALA Midwinter meeting in January when the Newbery winner is announced. This is another realistic fiction that is getting a lot of attention from reviewers.)
Jack lives on a farm with his mom and dad. They are a good, solid, family who take in foster children. At the beginning of the story they take in a foster child, Joseph, who has been in a correctional facility. He is 14 years old and has already fathered a child. Joseph is talented and intelligent, but he is traumatized by a past full of abuse and loss. Becoming part of Jack's family and participating in the routine of farm life starts to heal his soul. Jack, who is 2 years younger than Joseph, is fiercely loyal to Joseph and together they try to deal with all that has come before, and all that is yet to come in Joseph's life.
This is an amazingly well written book. I loved Schmidt's book, OK for Now, and this one has a similar tone and intensity. In both books, the main character is already battered and broken at the beginning of the story, and then, through consistent love and support, they start to heal and become stronger. If anything, Schmidt's writing in this one is better than his earlier ones. It is so spare and understated that nothing gets in the way of story. If I were to try to copy Schmidt's writing style I would have to take one of my stories, cut out about 2/3rds of it where I try to explain why people did what they did, or what they were thinking, and just write what they did and what actually happened. It takes a lot of courage to write like that. You have to trust the reader to understand what you haven't said.
I actually haven't ordered this for the children's department yet. One of the reasons I read it was to try to decide if I should. I think it would be appropriate for a 12 or 13 year-old-who has a serious personality. It isn't really appropriate for an 8-or 9-year-old because of mature themes. As much as I liked it, I think I will leave it in the YA department. (192 p.)