Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Review: Paperboy

I had noticed this book a few times before, but when my middle school son came home saying he had to read it, I decided to read it with him (to help him when it came time for him to write up his book report). Paperboy tells the story of a young boy in the 1950s who lives in the South and deals with a stuttering problem. Amazon lists this Newbery Honor book as "perfect for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, The King's Speech, and The Help."

After hitting his best friend Rat in the mouth with a baseball, Victor feels obligated to take over Rat's paper route when Rat has to go visit his grandparents for the month of July. Because of his love of baseball, the throwing part thrills him. Because of his stutter, the collections part terrifies him. The book is full of interesting characters. My favorites were Mam, the boy's African American caretaker (similar to Aibileen in The Help) and Mr. Spiro, an educated man who gives the boy clues to help him discover his true identity (my son loved the image of the offered corners of the dollar bill with S-words on them so much that he used it for his book report's visual aid - sadly the teacher scorned his offering and said it showed "little creativity").

While the book is about identity and resilience, it is primarily about individual story. Once again, we all have a story to tell. As this book puts it, "it matters more what you say than how you say it." Toward the end of the book, Victor declares "my soul doesn't s-s-s-stutter." An excellent selection for any young reader who doubts their worth or struggles with their identity because of a disability (heads up - it does portray some intense social ills like alcoholism, domestic violence, and racial tension, and hints at the inappropriate affections of an adult neighbor).

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