by Katherine Patterson, Published 1977
“He was angry, too, because it would soon be Christmas and he had nothing to give Leslie. It was not that she would expect something expensive; it was that he needed to give her something as much as he needed to eat when he was hungry.”
When I put this children’s book down, my shirt was dampened with teardrops, and I couldn’t do anything but sit quietly for a while. I felt like I had just lost my best friend, as Jess had. The impact was astounding.
Perhaps I’m the only one on the planet who never heard of or read this Newbery winning children’s book, but just in case there are others who have missed it, this is an amazing piece of children’s literature. At the end, I felt like I had experienced a master artist create a perfect picture, without any wasted strokes; with immense detail but not so much that you get lost in it; and with reality that rings of the truth in every word. I don’t say this lightly — I feel this children’s book is like a work of art.
The emotional impact of the story is even greater because the main characters, Jess and Leslie, enter your heart immediately. As a parent, I just want to scoop them up, especially Jess, and save them from difficulties. Yet these two are not weaklings, always rising to the best they can be, in every school and family situation. They make exceptional role models for friendship, dealing with adversity, and kindness.
The book is perfect for girls and boys, though I marked it especially for boys because of the main character. The story’s characters are fifth grade children, so I recommend it to children over 11. Because it is so emotionally compelling, I suggest parents read the book as well, to support their children in getting the most of this book. There is also a teacher’s guide available for using this book in classrooms. There is also a Disney movie of this children’s book, but as always, I recommend reading the book first. I don’t know the quality of the movie.
Find this at your local bookstore