What Jamie Saw

by Carolyn Coman. Novel. 123 pages. Grades 4-7.
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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.

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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?

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