I grabbed this book from the shelf at the children’s section of the library. I have read most of Lois Lowry’s works, and I did not know this one. It tells the story of Katy Thatcher, a precocious ten-year-old and daughter of the town doctor, growing up at the turn of the 20th century. Katy likes to accompany her father on his rounds and she wants to be a doctor herself when she grows up. She becomes intrigued with Jacob, the adolescent brother of their household help. Jacob is a gentle and shy boy, who doesn’t speak, but has a quiet relationship with animals and a fascination with how things work. Katy reaches out to Jacob to try to befriend him. In time, the book moves to a terrible and tragic conclusion.
I loved this story and the characters in it. One of Lowry’s strengths as a writer has always been character development and this is evident once again here. This book could open some good discussions with students on understanding differences. In the story, Jacob is referred to as “touched”. Today he would most likely be seen as on the spectrum for autism/PDD. Katy’s compassion for him is quite beautiful; however, due to the traumatic ending of this book, I would recommend it for older children, grades 5/6 and up.