Lowry's moving portrait of rural life
Set in a small Pennsylvania town in the early 1900s, Lois Lowry's <B>The Silent Boy</B> tells the story of Katy Thatcher, a precocious doctor's daughter, and the unusual boy she meets on a nearby farm. Full of authentic historical details, elements of mystery and the wonder of a young girl awakening to the world around her, <B>The Silent Boy</B> is a satisfying, suspenseful novel young readers will love. Katy, who will one day become a doctor herself, encounters Jacob Stoltz through visits with her father to the Stoltz farm, and through Peggy, the family's hired girl, who is also Jacob's sister. Peggy, like many teens of her time, works for a well-to-do family in this case the Thatchers. Her older sister Nell works for their neighbors, and the plot revolves around these two young women.
Katy's life seems idyllic in many ways. She goes sledding in winter, watches fireworks on the fourth of July and enjoys visits with Grandma. Within this rural world, Jacob's behavior his stubborn silence and odd way of moving, his remarkable ability with animals is considered strange. To readers, it's obvious that he is autistic, but the community, including Katy and her family, believes he is touched in the head. Jacob's autism, Katy's curiosity and the dreams of the two sisters all come together in a wonderful conclusion.
<B>The Silent Boy</B> is unusually visual, not only in the wonderful verbal pictures Lois Lowry creates, but in the old family photographs she uses as chapter headings. It's almost as if the book is a biography rather than fiction. Lowry's mother grew up in small-town Pennsylvania, and her father was both a doctor and a photographer. Lowry herself studied photography and has said that the family photos used in the book provided the structure for the narrative.
<B>The Silent Boy</B> is a simple story, and therein lies its power. A two-time Newbery Award winner, Lowry succeeds in evoking a time long past, but without steeping readers in nostalgia. Could it be that a third Newbery Medal is in the offing?