Friday, May 29, 2015

The Boy on the Porch

by Sharon Creech

Summary from GoodReads

From Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech comes a singular story that reminds us of the surprising connections that bloom when unconditional love and generosity prevail. For when a young couple finds a boy asleep on their porch, their lives take an unexpectedly joyous turn.

When John and Marta found the boy on the porch, they were curious, naturally, as to why he was there-and they didn't expect him to stay, not at first, but he did stay, day after day, until it seemed as if he belonged, running and smiling and laughing his silent laugh, tapping and patting on every surface as he made his music, and painting-with water, with paint, with mud-those swirly swirls and swings and trees.

One day a young couple wakes to find a boy asleep on their porch. Unable to speak, the boy cannot explain his history. What kind of person would leave their child with strangers? All they know is that they have been chosen to care for this boy. And as their connection to him grows, they embrace his exuberant spirit and talents. The three of them blossom into an unlikely family, and John and Marta and the boy begin to see the world in brand-new ways. Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech delivers a poignant story of finding family when you least expect it.

Thoughts on the Book

I absolutely love Sharon Creech.  I grew up with Walk Two Moons, it's one of my favorite books I quote it all the time - still!  The Wanderer is another one of my favorites, I memorized the entire NATO alphabet because the main character in it had to.  I can go on and on about her books, Chasing Redbird (when I learned what the whooping cough was), Bloomability, Absolutely Normal Chaos...  Sharon Creech is one of my all-time favorite authors, and definitely my favorite children's author.  I got this book at BEA last year, so I thought it was appropriate to post it from BEA this year! 

My Review

I was disappointed in this book.  I don't know if it's because I'm older or if I've put Creech so high up on a pedestal in the years since I last read her, but it just didn't sit right with me.  I thought it would turn out to be something mystical like The Odd Life of Timothy Green, but it was just parents abandoning their son with complete strangers.  The couple that took him in, John and Marta, seemed nice, but were not very smart, their conversations to each other didn't flow and weren't even remotely like anything people would actually say to each other.  I also kept getting stuck on what these people did.  They owned a house, I'm pretty sure they were a younger couple, they had a barn with some animals, and yet John had to keep trading items at the general store for jelly beans and other items for the boy.  Despite that they happened to have enough gas to drive all over the place for clothes (which they somehow paid for) or to try to figure out where the boy came from.  Neither of them seemed to work, or have any source of income, until the very end.  

The characters all seemed so flat, Marta was a dull woman who only seemed to be able to marvel at what Jacob (the boy) was doing.  John was a slight misogynist who both didn't like and liked the boy, he was very wishy-washy with it, especially at the beginning of the book.  The boy was the strangest character, he didn't speak, only tapped, and seemed to have a natural affinity for the arts.  Nothing about him made sense and there was no attempt to explain anything about him.  The Sheriff was the worst character in the entire book, he was out to arrest everyone, he thought he was the smartest man alive, his word was law, yet in reality he was a blundering opinionated idiot and no one did anything about it.

Another frustrating part of this story is the setting.  Where is this backwater place?  The midwest? The south?  It definitely can't be either of the coasts.  What time period is this supposed to be?  Contemporary?  If so then where the heck are they?  Some long-forgotten hick town?  The character's behavior would be more acceptable if the story took place in the early 20th century somewhere in the middle of the country.  

I think the point of this story was a feel-good book for foster kids or adopted kids.  Specifically for those kids with a very low reading level.  But who knows?  I'm going to attempt to disassociate this book from Creech, so as not to tarnish how awesome of a writer she was with her other books.  I have to give this book a 4/10.

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