WHILE YOU WERE OUT by J. Irvin Kuns

WHILE YOU WERE OUT

Age Range: 8 - 12
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KIRKUS REVIEW

It’s agonizing enough that Penelope has to start fifth grade without her best friend Tim, who died from cancer over the summer, but her dad is starting his new job as the school janitor. To fill the void of Tim’s friendship, she secretly writes message to him on pink “While You Were Out” notes and leaves them in his empty desk beside hers. The “To/From” notes are reproduced on the pages, a device that effectively captures Penelope’s emotional upheaval. Moments of humor lighten the solemnity: throwing up in front of the class, dropping her favorite barrette in the toilet, experiencing Poetry Therapy, and fending off an attack rooster. Stories about the death of a child’s cohort require a deft hand to balance reassurance with compassion and this title lands solidly on the beam; it can stand as a sibling to Doris Smith’s A Taste of Blackberries (1973). Dialogue, small-school environment, and an imperfect dad are realistic, while the sensitive portrayal of a young girl’s grief, her need for friends and the power of remembrance is touching and empathetic. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-525-47295-9
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2004