I said goodbye to the students on Wednesday and on Thursday, I wished colleagues a relaxing summer and promptly flew out to Chicago for the American Library Association Annual Conference. It was an amazing whirlwind of booklove - but more on that later. I flew back on Monday and on Tuesday, I packed up for the summer and headed for the north country, where I promptly unpacked.
Which brings me to yesterday, the first real day of summer.
I feel significant pressure to make this day remarkable, to somehow savor its goodness. Therefore, whatever I choose to do must fit into this paradigm of pressure. A swim (or two) in the river is always a must, along with a visit to my mother's garden and watching the sunset while sitting on the back porch. "How else to fill my day?" Can better be answered by, "Which book shall I read?"
You see my dilemma. So much pressure placed on that first book of summer. I had better choose a good one. And I did.
The Boy on the Porch is a beautiful and satisfying read.
Without telling too much I will share some things I loved about the book.
I love the relationship between the young couple, Marta and John. They know what the other person is thinking and the sentences left unfinished and the questions that are left unanswered are the ones too painful to finish or answer. I love how they rely on each other as they take this unfamiliar journey. (I kept picturing them as older, even though I knew they were young. I think this was because I selfishly wanted to identify with them, I wanted to be able to put myself in their shoes.)
I love the boy, Jacob. His gentle spirit is heartwarming and his joy with the world around him is infectious. Watching himself find and express his "voice" is an experience not to miss.
I love how they trade everyday objects for things for the boy and how these things give him a voice. This act of giving away a necessary object, for one that might seem frivolous, but is most definitely not, is an act of love and devotion.
I love how Sharon creates threads in her stories, as with how the sheriff draws his fingers across his badge to polish it when speaking with someone. This subtle gesture, aptly repeated in specific moments on the text, creates a marker for a moment in the story and draws the reader back to those moments.
And here is an excerpt, it's describing the boy, but I think it also describes what Sharon Creech has accomplished in this book.
"It was as if he were re-creating the sounds of the forest and the dawn and the mountains, all rolled together. The sounds moved John and Marta greatly. One minute they would be smiling and soon after they were close to tears. It was as if the boy had control over their minds and bodies."
You can replace Sharon's name for the boy and my name for the John and Marta. I laughed, I cried. I felt sated. Marta, John, Jacob and their journey will stay with me long after this summer.