The Boy on the Porch

Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech breaks a cardinal rule of children’s literature in The Boy on the Porch.  The main characters of this story are adults!  The main child character even steps out of the picture for part of the story!  But you know what?  It works!


Marta and John walk onto their porch one morning to find a young boy sound asleep on a chair.  He comes with a note asking the couple to take care of Jacob and stating that whoever dropped him off would return to get him.  Unsigned and unspecific as to when they will return, the couple hesitantly agrees.  Oh, and Jacob doesn’t talk, he taps.

Why it appeals to children: The events of the story are so outside of the ordinary, it compels the reader to stay engaged.  Children will be captivated by Jacob.  His quietness.  His talents.  His journey.  Children will also fall in love with the compassionate dedication of Marta and John.  Additionally, it has great appeal to reluctant readers.  Most chapters are just three pages long, some are longer, and many are just two pages!  The story starts with a shocking discovery and demands the reader to turn the page again and again.

Why it appeals to adults:  The story will especially appeal to educators, social workers, and foster parents.  It highlights the multiple intelligence stance – it’s not “How smart are you?” but “How are you smart?”  And it portrays being a foster parent through a very pure and appealing light.  While this book is not a “foster parent book,” it is an important thread that is subtly weaved.

It was a little odd to read a children’s book that focused on a married couple.  Adult readers will identify with the dilemmas John and Marta face.  What I appreciated most was the simpleness of their deep love. Completely different than the convoluted life of middle America.  They didn’t have much to offer, but they gave everything they had. Not to mention how it tenderly brings in heavy topics like an abandoned child and loving a child that is not like all of the other children.

Creech trusts her readers to create their own mental movie and does not overwhelm with details.   The story is written in an easy going way, but it profoundly communicates the simpleness of John and Marta’s love for Jacob and meeting his deepest needs.

As a writer: Yes, Sharon Creech broke a few rules in writing this story.  She’s a Newbery Award winner and she in entitled to that freedom.  For the rest of us pre-published authors, we have to stay in the lines for now.  (I know what you’re thinking.  Give it a try.  I hope your unique idea works for you and you break new literary ground!  Honestly.)  We can, however, let books like this inspire us to dream of something different while we hone our craft and work on getting that first one published!  We can also take note on how to write succinctly.  Who? Me?

To Sharon Creech I say, thank you for this lovely story.  It left me with a lump in my throat. It is one that will stay with me.  And I am so very glad it is one that was written.

Because of Mr. Terupt

mr. teruptWriting a book from many perspectives is a challenge I am not sure I will ever be equal to.   How do you move the story forward? It seems like you could get stuck in a scene for a while when you have more than one perspective.  How do you get the reader to care about each character, to IDENTIFY with each one?  If the reader isn’t feeling connected to the characters, they will close the covers or torture themselves to get to the end.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea conquered this challenge.  The reader follows several students through the course of the school year and connects with each one.  Many stereotypical classroom personas become characters, and their actions and thoughts ring true.  I was able to relate to each character myself or connect the student to someone I once went to school with or taught.  When one character’s actions result in a grave injury, the reader doesn’t experience just one set of emotions as it effects the entire class.

This story addresses conflicts children deal with on a daily basis, but it also shows how they cope together, or independently, when tragedy strikes.  Every child can relate to this cast of characters and adults will appreciate how genuine the characters are.

I have read other books that have multiple characters.  Most of those books have been a drudgery to get through.  But not this.  This one got it right.  Therefore, Because of Mr. Terupt is a book I am glad was written.  You are good, Mr. Buyea.