When Sharon Creech's new book appeared in bookstores, I was able to pick it up at my favorite indie shop on it's birthday. As I do most times when a cherished author has a new book, I placed it where I could look at it for a few days. I avoided all reviews and the jacket flap. For starters the jacket illustration for The Boy on the Porch (Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) intrigued me. Who was this boy? Where was this porch? What was the significance of the dog sitting next to him? It was like an open door. With the first sentence,
The young couple found the child asleep in an old cushioned chair on the front porch.,
I crossed over the threshold and entered a truly memorable story. By the time I finished the two-page first chapter I knew nothing would take me from this world of a husband and wife who find a boy on their porch, until I read the final page.
We learn the young couple are named Marta and John. Their small farm in the country, some twelve miles outside a tiny rural town with a general store and a sheriff's office, provides the quintessential backdrop for the events which unfold. The boy, unable to speak, eventually hands them a wrinkled note he takes from his pocket. It reads:
Plees taik kair of Jacob.
He is a
Will be bak wen we can.
At first Marta and John believe someone will come by the end of the day. When no one does by the next day, John drives to town to make inquiries. He's careful how he words his questions because already he can see Marta is developing an attachment to Jacob. To his surprise he is too.
As is the way of the universe when one thing is missing, others may be strengthened. We readers along with Marta and John, discover Jacob's gifts. He has a natural ability for music, painting (in a big way) and in communicating with the animals on the farm. Beagle, the couple's beagle, a stray appearing at the farm earlier, leads Jacob around the pastures along with the cow, recently left tied to the fence at the end of their drive. To their amazement, watching the trio one morning, they notice Jacob tapping and patting as he usually does but the dog and cow are responding in their own similar manner.
As days drift into weeks, it's clear the three have formed a familial relationship, however precarious it might be; all have tucked away in their minds the return of whoever left Jacob on the porch. John and Marta do their best to care for Jacob and he delights them endlessly with his uplifting view of the world, his tenderness for all living things. While their love for the boy grows, the couple continue to ask in their town and other nearby towns about a missing child never quite telling the whole truth.
The goodness in John's and Marta's hearts, other pieces in this puzzle found, and visits by the sheriff are all blended together in a culmination which even now brings tears to my eyes. But as is the way of storyteller, Sharon Creech, it's not the end. Oh my no...she takes us deeper into the tale with more lives changed, more love than your heart can almost bear and a very old beagle howling at a closed door.
During my second reading of The Boy on the Porch I began to mark words, phrases and passages. Soon my book was sporting the porcupine look. In fact, I was so profoundly moved by the writing, the narrative of this book, I sent out a tweet to Sharon Creech.
Reading the prose of @ciaobellacreech is like reading poetry. I ♥ The Boy on the Porch. #bookaday
— Margie Myers-Culver (@Loveofxena) September 8, 2013
It's like she can see into the deepest parts of people's hearts, looking for the good which will triumph over the not-so-good things in the world. It's her belief that kindness will be returned tenfold which permeates every single page of this book. The dialogue between her characters and their thoughts revealed show us their essence. Her descriptions of the events, the setting, are so vivid we are transported. Allow me to share a couple of passages with you.
When the man and the dog returned to the porch, the woman was kneeling beside the old cushioned chair, her hand resting gently on the boy's back. There was something in the tilt of her head and the tenderness of her touch that moved him.
He didn't know what made him so anxious. Maybe the people had come for the boy. He should have stayed home with Marta. What if there was a problem---but what sort of problem? What was the matter with him? He wasn't usually a worrier.
It was as if he were re-creating the sounds of the forest and the dawn and the mountains, all together. The sounds moved John and Marta greatly. One minute they would be smiling and soon after they were close to tears. It was as if the boy had control of their minds and bodies.
The Boy on the Porch written by Sharon Creech is so beautifully told it can be enjoyed repeatedly by readers older and younger than the intended audience. It provides answers but asks questions, opening up opportunities for discussion. Most of all this is a story of love, love shared and returned. Thank you Sharon Creech for this book.
Please visit Sharon Creech's website through the link embedded in her name above. In celebration of this book's release pledge to read in the Creech-A-Thon. If you desire here is a link to a discussion guide. If you would like to read a portion of the beginning of this title, follow this link to the publisher's website to Browse Inside. This links to commentary for readers and writers posted by author Barbara O'Connor on her blog about The Boy on the Porch. Enjoy the video below where Sharon Creech reads to us from The Boy on the Porch.
Here is an update to the original blog post. It's taken from Sharon Creech's blog, Words We Say. It's titled The Boy on the Porch: Beginning. It's truly wonderful when readers are given insight into the writing process; knowing how a book is brought to life.