CROSSING THE WATER: Eighteen Months on an Island Working with Troubled Boys—A Teacher's Memoir
Disturbing, funny and often wise, this memoir charts Robb's 18 months as a resident teacher working with troubled youth at a small progressive school on a remote, picturesque island near the Massachusetts coast. At first Robb, a writer and editor, approaches his position at the Penikese Island School as just another job, but soon his interaction with the small group of teenage boys becomes as challenging and rewarding as that of a family, transforming everyone in the process. The school administrator and Robb's fellow teachers, unswayed by the legal transgressions of the juvenile offenders, see only young boys who can be redeemed with adult supervision, hard work, clean air, healthy food, scheduled activity and fun. Robb, with a keen ear for dialogue and an instinct for telling detail, captures the humanity of each boy, thus avoiding Blackboard Jungle clichés, so the reader sees through the tough facade of the car thief, arsonist or headbanger to the insecure, lonely kid underneath. In the end, Robb must confront his own demons born of a turbulent childhood and youth, while enduring the loneliness of the solitary island existence; he handles this introspection in a series of well-placed flashbacks and memories. This brief experience at Penikese alters him profoundly, giving him stability, confidence, love and family. Yet he never lapses into sentimentality about his job, the boys or himself. Agent, Jill Kneerim. (June 13)
Forecast: This beautifully written, compassionate book should appeal to a wide readership. If it gets the review attention it deserves, sales should be respectable.