Mick Harte Was Here

by Park, Barbara. (Apple Soup/Knopf, 1995 ISBN 0-679-87088-1) Novel. 88 pages. Grades 3+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


This is a wonderful book although it's a cautionary tale. It's short and, as far as reading level is concerned, it's easy to read. The difficult part is the tragedy it tells us about. We hear about it from Phoebe, Mick's older sister, and she tells us right away, "I don't want to make you cry. I just want to tell you about Mick. But I thought you should know right up front that he's not here anymore. I just thought that would be fair." The reader hopes she doesn't mean that he's dead. Perhaps she means he's gone away. We're in denial with the family for at least part of the book.

Describing Mick as the practical joking, funny kid, the author makes us all mourn for him. Park has a light touch and the story makes you laugh out loud almost as much as it makes you cry. She knows exactly which details to give us: Mr. Harte's closing of Mick's bedroom door when he comes back from the hospital, for instance. The typical stages of grief are delineated and personalized here as the family deals with grief, guilt and each other in a very human and realistic way. There's an open and final appeal for wearing bicycle helmets and even that is well done as Phoebe overcomes her own pain to talk at a school assembly on bicycle safety.


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