Friday, May 16, 2008

Jim the Boy (copy)

Quiet, episodic, and verging on nostalgic is how I explain Jim the Boy by Tony Earley. My gut tells me the story is similar to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, but then again, not really. Earley’s book moves forward in the telling, but Wilder’s Laura is looking back in narration.

Since Jim the Boy is marketed to young adult readers, I thought it similar to Sounder by William H. Armstrong. Sounder is the simple story of a sharecropper’s son who longs for an education instead of the fields. The book is filled with symbols and situations only an adult with experience can appreciate. Not so much the symbols, but many young adults will misinterpret the slow, clean prose of Earley’s work as boring. In my opinion both books are targeting the wrong audience.

Ten-year-old Jim is growing up in Depression Era, small town Aliceville, NC. He lives on a farm with his widowed mother and three of her brothers. The Uncles, Zeno, Coran, and Al, combine efforts to provide Jim with a suitable father figure. His mother, battling depression, still manages to put on a brave face when Jim is around. All-in-all, readers will find they are a happy lot.

As in most ten-year-old boys, prior to the distractions of televisions and Game Boys, hometown is the epicenter of all things. One explores the fields, barns, buildings, and local faces with fascinating curiosity. When one attends the big brick school on the hill for the first time, it is progress. When electricity comes into town, it is life-changing. When the Express hits a cow while Ty Cobb may or may not be lounging on the train, it is earth shattering. The littlest of events become episodes catapulting one closer and closer to adulthood.

Jim the Boy begins with a small quote from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, “I love it here in the barn,” said Wilbur. “I love everything about this place.” Jim could easily say this about Aliceville. It is his barn which he loves deeply, and as he progresses through his ten years, each month spreads the love even farther by visiting the ocean and his grandfather on the mountain.

Jim is coming-of-age within his heaven on earth, and we the readers are allowed to bounce around on his fluffy clouds. Earley creates this fictional sense of place where things are quiet, episodic, and verging on nostalgic.

Thank you, Tony Earley, for this small, simply satisfying read.

15 comments:

Unknown said...

This sounds really good! I'm going to look for this. Thanks!

maggie moran said...

Yay, Nicloa. It has been a national bestseller and I've seen it featured in bookstores across the country. 'Bout time I read it! ;D

Cipriano said...

Oh, I love to see adults reading the kids' books.
I do this, too!
This particular book, it's prairieness, reminds me of the work of Canadian author W.O. Mitchell.... Who Has Seen The Wind et al.

maggie moran said...

Ya know, I just don't know my Canadian authors Cipriano. Never heard of Mitchell and I'm supposed to be a pretty good librarian! ;)

Kim said...

I finally got around to reading Jim the Boy this winter and loved it also! Did you know there is a sequel to it? I have it sitting here waiting to be read for one of my challenges. It is called The Blue Star.
*smiles*
Kim
(page after page)

maggie moran said...

Kim - I have it on my night stand, too! I'm saving it for the summer. I'm very excited about Jim the Boy. My co-worker who doesn't read is reading it! My mission in action! :D

Lisa said...

I actually picked this book up this weekend at my favorite used book store. Of course, I picked up quite a few other things, as well. :) I really look forward to reading this, and the sequel looks good, too. I think it's called The Blue Star.

maggie moran said...

Lisa, you can read it in one sitting and I believe you will walk away happier. I never thought of a book as quiet until I ead this one. I await your thoughts with great anticipation. ;)

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Yes, it's a quick read. I really enjoyed this book and just picked up The Blue Star at my library today. I sat in the parking lot and read the first few pages. Hooked me already! It's my first book for the Southern Challenge.

BTW, a coworker who doesn't read?????

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Hit post before I finished.

To anyone who enjoys this book, have you read The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig? I recommend it!

maggie moran said...

Mary, one of our IT guys, not a big reader. But, he may want to read The Blue Star next! Very exciting!

Thanks for the book suggestion. My hubby read it and it's around the house in one of my many stacks somewhere. I'll go pull it out for the summer. :)

david mcmahon said...

Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. It sounds wonderful.

Must look for it ....

maggie moran said...

Hi David,

It is rather good and I started the second one last night. :)

Lesley said...

I ordered copies of both this and the second book by him for our library, based on what I'd heard about these books. I'm glad to hear they will be worthy additions to our library.

maggie moran said...

I don't know why it took me so long to read them Lesley! I really think those patrons that like quiet reads like Little House on the Prairie will fall in love with him. :)