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THE GRADUATION OF JAKE MOON by Barbara Park

THE GRADUATION OF JAKE MOON

By Barbara Park

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-83912-X
Publisher: Atheneum

Jake Moon’s grandfather Skelly used to be the emotional fixer in Jake’s household, the one who soothed his hurts and helped him through hard times. But when Jake is in third grade, Skelly begins forgetting things and by the time Jake is ready to graduate from eighth grade Skelly’s Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point where he is barely aware of his surroundings. Jake learns from Skelly’s doctor that Alzheimer’s disease has three stages, “each . . . worse than the one before it,” which Jake thinks of as “(1) sad, (2) sadder, and (3) the saddest thing you’ve ever seen.” The book chronicles not only Skelly’s deterioration, but also the effect it has on Jake and his relationships with other family members and friends. As Skelly’s condition worsens, their roles reverse and Jake finds himself caring for the man who once cared for him. That, coupled with the fact that his grandfather has become a tremendous embarrassment—at a sleepover, Skelly shows up in Jake’s room without any pants or underpants, for example—causes Jake to disengage from friends and extracurricular activities. Park’s convincing first-person narration rings true, and she is particularly adept at rendering Jake’s complex emotional journey, which encompasses love, confusion, sadness, anger, embarrassment, shame, and finally acceptance. The book has some funny moments, but it’s one of Park’s darker, more poignant creations; readers expecting a Skinnybones–type laugh-a-thon will be sadly disappointed. Nonetheless, Park has produced a perceptive book that should prove useful to children who must navigate similar waters. (Fiction. 9-12)