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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Boy has always been relegated to the outskirts of his small village. With a hump on his back, a mysterious past, and a tendency to talk to animals, he is often mocked by others in his town—until the arrival of a shadowy pilgrim named Secondus. Impressed with Boy’s climbing and jumping abilities, Secondus engages Boy as his servant, pulling him into an action-packed and suspenseful expedition acros…

The Book of Boy

by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Overall Book Review:

There is much to be learned from an orphan named Boy.  The people who love him have all died.  Mean people fear him because he’s different, but little do they know what he’s capable of.  He’s kind, smart, and has a special way with animals.  Secundus, who is a Pilgrim and a man out of time, takes Boy on an adventure where he learns a lot.  At a time when few people are kind to Boy, Secundus treats him as if he were almost normal.  In the six months they are together, Boy grows physically, emotionally, and in maturity.  Becoming a protector of the weak rather than the strong, Secundus sees the differences in Boy as a good thing. 

The story is easy to read and fast-paced.  The chapters are a comfortable length making it easy to read one chapter at a time, yet, the style of the author’s writing made it hard to not pick up the book every chance I had.  The author’s talent for writing makes this historical novel with a religious twist a pure pleasure to read.  It’s also lovely to see how the author handles Boy’s frailty.  Boy is not presented as dumb or senseless.  He has morals, a brain, and a super big heart.  He also prays a lot.  Being Catholic and knowing for certain that God, Heaven, and Hell are very real, he prays to the saints daily.  The author has seamlessly incorporated Boy and Secundus’ faith into an easy to read story line. 

Death is a main theme of this book.  The plague hit two years or so prior to this story and affected everybody in some way.  The author has done a remarkable job of not painting detailed or graphic images of death but this being a Newbery Honor Book, emotion is embedded throughout the story.  The age range for this book is eight to twelve years old but with all the death and unkind people in this story, I would recommend it for the older ages rather than the younger.

Excellent and one of the best reads of the year!

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  None 

Violence/Gore:  A boy falls from a tree but is unharmed; a priest smacks a boy while telling him to not reveal his skin to anybody; mention of a father-type man who died previously, no details; a boy’s mother died previously, no details; a boy walks past three places where people have died of different things; multiple mentions of a mother and her three babies who have died previously; a woman threatens to slap somebody if they waste food; a woman says mean things to a boy saying that his physical differences have brought pestilence and he’s useless; mention of the eternal fires of damnation; a man has a dent in his head from a sporting event and is permanently incapacitated and drools; an older boy is mean and throws rocks at a boy every chance he gets; mention of a man whose son has died; mention of a time when boys threw rocks at another boy & called him names, a man came and whacked the boys to make them stop; a boy remembers a man who would whack mean people; a man throws a baby to a boy in order to save it; mention of a man whose wife and child died previously; a scary battle between a few men along with hunting dogs, 1 man dies; many people call a boy a monster because he has deformities; a boy has repeated nightmares of a man who wants to kill him; a boy is trapped inside a coffin, descriptive but not very scary; a she-wolf tries to kill a man and a boy but does not; a girl holds a knife to a boy’s throat; a she-wolf comes to the rescue of a man and a boy and she threatens violence to the attacker; a man tossed from his donkey but not hurt; a man whips his donkey; a man slaps a donkey on the nose and the donkey rips the man’s gown; mention of a young pig who would soon be butchered, no description. 

Sex/Nudity:  A boy mentions a time when he had no clothes and a man gave him some, no description, non-sexual; a boy remembers a time when a man told him not to reveal his skin to anybody even though “men sleep naked”; a man rips off the robe of a boy unintentionally, implied he is naked except his hose, no details, non-sexual; conversation that a boy has “naught between his legs”, non-sexual; a donkey rips the robe off a man and leaves him only in his undershirt, no details, non-sexual.

Mature Subject Matter:

War, plague, much death, a man in a vegetative state, Heaven, Hell, Catholicism, religion, praying to saints, trapped in a coffin, mean kids and adults, theft of relics, a boy does not know who his father is.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Reading a good adventure story has always been a vacation in the theater of my mind. When I’m stressed or just need to get away for a few minutes, I love the opportunity to climb into somebody else’s world. I didn’t enjoy reading until I was in the Air Force and building bombs in Korea; it was a wonderful distraction from the real world. (I tried bull riding, but it wasn’t exciting enough.)