G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group: NY, 2007.
Newbery Honor Award 2008
Frannie is contemplating a poem by Emily Dickinson when a new boy joins the class. The situation is disruptive in two ways - the new boy appears to be white (in an all black neighborhood and school) and he also looks and behaves a bit like Jesus. The classroom bully is affronted and confrontational from the first moment on. The new guy is christened Jesus Boy and makes waves wherever he goes. He does not back down and responds with sadness. Frannie's religious, best friend is sure he is Jesus. Because she wants him to be, it gives her hope in a neighborhood lacking hope.
Frannie makes a connection with the new boy through their common usage of sign language. Her older brother is deaf, so she grew up with the language. The Jesus Boy doesn't know how he knows it. He just does.
There is a bit of surface tension in the novel. Frannie is observing mostly, not willing to judge. The inevitable confrontation helps her to see things below the surface, allowing her to offer help when others wouldn't, spurring her to see life and people a little differently.
My first impression was of the shortness of the book. Then, it had a very different feel, so it took some acclimating. But I like the contemplation of the book. Granted, it would be more appealing to people wanting to think about life, the universe, spiritual growth, etc. I love that stuff and truly enjoy moments of discussion and revealing thought. It is a very short book. Possibly a good choice for book clubs. It has a very light treatment of religion.
The teacher assigns two writing exercises near the end. With a class
reading, these could easily be lesson extensions. One would work for a
social studies class as well.
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