What Jamie Saw
by Carolyn Coman. (Front Street, 1995. ISBN 1886910022. Order Info.) Novel. 123 pages. Grades 4-7.
Not all families are happy ones and not all adults behave in an adult or admirable manner. This is a spare, insightful story about feeling safe after being afraid and in danger. It's a story about physical abuse on the part of one parent and about the efforts made by the other parent to keep her children safe. The concentration of this short, easily accessible novel is on the healing of the wounded family.
Jamie, his mother and the baby, Nin, have been living with Nin's father, Van. Although we see only one explosive moment of Van's violence, we know it's not an isolated incident. Van hurls Nin through the air in the first paragraph of the book. Mercifully, amazingly, but quite credibly, Patty catches Nin and takes herself, Nin and Jamie away. The rest of this intense, brief novel deals with this small wounded family and how, with the help of Patty's friend Earl and Jamie's teacher, they find safety and healing. This remarkable novel is carefully honed; the unsaid words are as important as what is written on the page.
The discussions and even the reading itself of a book like this can be alarming for some children. Be sure that you watch carefully for signs of distress and offer your own help and that of counselors when needed.
Things to Talk About and Notice
- Look for parts of the book that give clues as to how Jamie is feeling at that point.
- Look for parts that help you understand his mother's feelings.
- Look for times in which Jamie and his mother are communicating well with each other and for times when they are not.
- What specific things does Patty do to insure her family's safety?
- What clues do we have about Patty's relationship with Earl?
- What do we know about Jamie's biological father?
- Why do you think there are so many references to Texas in Jamie's thoughts?
- Mrs. Desrochers gets Patty to go to a support group. What good could that do?
- Find out what support groups exist for families in trouble in your area. Contact some of them for further information.
- Find out what services exist for families like Jamie's in your area. Find out as much as you can about each agency.
- What rights and help does someone your age have when there is abuse in the home?
3 NB's of Julian Drew by James M. Deem. (1994, Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0395694531. Order Info.) Novel. 227 pages. Gr 6-9.
At the beginning of the book, Julian writes mostly in code. Gradually, however, he becomes more trusting--not of the reader, but of himself. Slowly, the painful , awful story emerges. His mother--we don't even learn that it's she he is mourning for a long time--is dead. His father is remarried and both parents alternately ignore and abuse him. A teacher holds out a tentative hand but offers no real help. He needs to be with his mother and, in the process of attempting to do so, he steals some money, runs away, and very nearly dies. This is a fascinating look at a young man's search for the humanity buried inside himself. Read More.
- Hahn, Mary Downing Daphne's Book Avon, 1983 ISBN 0 380 72355 7
Jessica, a popular class member, is dismayed when the teacher forces her to work with a classroom outsider, Daphne. The project makes them both uncomfortable. As they work together on the common task, they begin to trust and then understand each other. Daphne and her younger sister, Hope, are living with a demented grandmother under extreme deprivation.
- Lisle, Janet Taylor Afternoon of the Elves Orchard, 1999 ISBN 0-531-08437-x
This is not the outright fantasy the title might imply. It's the story of a very real, resourceful, imaginative and desperate girl, Sara-Kate, her confused but loyal friend, Hillary, the village in Sara-Kate's back yard that might or might not have been made by elves, and Sara-Kate's secret life. The backyards of the two girls are joined, and the contrast between them is stark. Hillary's is trimmed, neat and full of carefully tended plants; Sara-Kate's is wild, full of poison ivy and junk. Hillary is delighted when Sara-Kate trusts her enough to allow her to examine the wonderful village. Inside Sara-Kate's own house there is a precarious survival at best. Sara-Kate's mother is mentally ill and helpless. Sara-Kate has been getting by with almost no food, heat or clothing. Her elf village has been her only joy for a very log time. Read More.
- MacLachlan, Patricia Arthur, for the Very First Time Illustrated by Lloyd Bloom HarperCollins, 1990 ISBN 0 06 024047 4
Although this short novel is not about child abuse, it is about a displaced child. Arthur has been called "Mouse" by everyone. He is quiet, introspective and a great thinker. He has been sent to his aunt and uncle's farm for the summer and has deduced that his parents are expecting a baby. At the farm he makes friends with a neighbor girl, Moira who is living with a foster family. It is she who calls him Arthur, for the very first time in this tender book about perception and growth.