Friday, January 30, 2004

Walk Softly, Rachel

Banks, Kate. 2003. WALK SOFTLY, RACHEL. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374382301 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]

This story is told through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Rachel, whose family has been living in the shadow of her brother’s death for the past seven years. As Rachel struggles to find her own way in life, and learn why she does some of the things she does, she looks to her dead older brother for answers. Jake’s room has been kept untouched and undisturbed since his passing and as Rachel seeks solace in his room, she discovers his journal. Through his own words, Rachel learns who her brother really was and how he struggled with the role he felt he was made to play. This discovery allows Rachel to break down some of the walls of grief put in place by her family and help them learn to leave their past behind, moving towards the future together as a family.

Written by Kate Banks, the text is well woven yet deceptively simple. Sentences are short and sweet, but combined so that the end result is a complexly patterned quilt of thoughts and feelings that vividly evoke the mix of emotions that seem to define “teenager.” Rachel is a richly written character, with great insight. She is sure to make readers wonder more about themselves, their own relationships and “how fickle memory is.” WALK SOFTLY, RACHEL is a well-written tale of self-discovery, which is sure to touch a nerve in every reader.

This story could be a good place to begin a discussion on perceptions of self and others.

This book could be used in a high school family study class to discuss the effects of grief on family relationships.

Other books about death in the family:
Blume, Judy. 2003. TIGER EYES. ISBN 0689858728
Wallace-Brodeur, Ruth. 2003. BLUE EYES BETTER. ISBN 014250860
Warner, Sally. 2003. A LONG TIME AGO TODAY. ISBN 0670036048

Another book by Kate Banks that deals with death and family secrets:

By Marianne Follis

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