And that’s when I started crying. Crying like a kindergarten kid in front of everyone. Crying because Joseph wasn’t just my friend.
I had his back.
And he had mine.
That’s what greater love is.
This slender novel packs quite a punch–an emotional punch right to the gut. I know that some people felt manipulated by the ending, but I am not one of them. I also know that some people will object to the portrayal of such a young teenage father, but not only does that not bother me, I actually think Schmidt handles this as well as he possibly could for not just a middle school audience, but an elementary school audience as well.
I’m going to cut to the chase: this is a book about love, the unconditional love that a foster family has for a damaged young kid, the love that kid has for his daughter, and the love that he eventually reciprocates back to the foster family. So while the book is strong in all the elements pertinent to it, I think the development of theme is ultimately what elevates this one above the pack of contenders. All things considered, though, it’s just a hair below ECHO and HIRED GIRL for me, grouped with books like THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, LOST IN THE SUN, and GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA. But a second reading of all of these books could cause me to reshuffle my order. So, too, could your arguments. How does this one stack up for you?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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