Koertge, Ron. 2013. COALTOWN JESUS. Boston: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763662288. [Suggested Grade Level 6-12]
Ever since his brother died, fourteen year old Walter has been praying to whomever is up there to help him understand and to help his mother who can’t stop crying. Imagine his surprise when Jesus appears in his Coaltown, Illionois bedroom. Jesus isn’t quite what he expected either. He’s irreverent, he’s funny, and sometimes he wears red hi-top tennis shoes. He’s also compassionate and caring and begins to help Walter come to terms with his brother Noah’s death. Despite Koertge’s light tone, the book deals beautifully with life’s serious questions about grief, about death, about strained relationships without becoming preachy or didactic.
…”You prayed,” Jesus said. “ I showed up.
I would have been here sooner,
but traffic on I-55 was awful.” (p.15)
“Why now?” Walter asked. I prayed
to God like a thousand times. And what
happened? Noah died. God didn’t look
downstairs? It’s a nursing home. Half
of my mom’s clients are ready to check
out. But he picks a kid.”
Jesus says, “You know those guys in caves
who meditate all the time? And all those
philosophers and brainiacs in a room full
of books? They’re still working on that one.” (p. 20)
With his often sparsely worded poetry, Koertge reaches into the depths of grief and leads the reader to a sense of resolution.
This is a good book to share with a teen who is dealing with grief. If working with teens in a church youth group or Sunday School setting or in a book discussion group, the book could be used to open discussion about how they picture Jesus, what they think he might say to them about problems or questions they might have, what they believe about death.
Other books by Ron Koertge:
SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP. ISBN 9780763629397
SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS. ISBN 9780763658526