cover image The Graduation of Jake Moon

The Graduation of Jake Moon

Barbara Park. Atheneum Books, $15 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83912-2

HAs she did in Mick Harte Was Here, Park introduces an uncommonly sympathetic and articulate young narrator who lightly relays a story with tragic underpinnings. Here, eighth-grader Jake Moon recounts his beloved grandfather's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease and the dramatic changes his illness brings to Jake's life. Since his infancy, Jake and his single mother have lived with big-hearted Skelly, who ""had a way of believing in you, that made you want to believe in yourself."" Never maudlin, even infusing sturdy humor into some of his sad observations, Jake poignantly describes Skelly's gradual debilitation as Alzheimer's robs him of his memory and brings on a heartbreaking reversal of roles between adult and child. Park subtly and affectingly reveals Jake's growing maturity and acceptance of an awful inevitability. The plot culminates in Jake's eighth-grade graduation, when the boy rushes to his grandfather's side after the old man wanders onto the auditorium stage and starts to cry in his confusion. At one point in the story, Skelly breaks into a huge grin when served his favorite breakfast and Jake comments: ""It was one of those moments that can make you smile and break your heart at the same time."" Readers will discover many such moments in this memorable novel. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)