cover image What Jamie Saw

What Jamie Saw

Carolyn Coman / Author, Handprint / Author Front Street $15.9

What third-grader Jamie saw-his baby sister being hurled across the room by his stepfather, Van-is the first image in this heart-wrenching book. What follows are the effects of the incident on the boy: his relief when baby Nin is caught, miraculously, by his mother, Patty; his gratitude and anxiety when Patty moves them out of the abusive household; and, most powerful of all, his underlying fear that Van will find their new home, a friend's trailer, where Jamie, Patty and Nin live like ``sitting ducks.'' Coman so deftly slips into the skin of her main character that he seems almost to be dictating to her. The opening sentence, for example-``When Jamie saw him throw the baby, saw Van throw the baby, saw Van throw the little baby, saw Van throw his little sister Nin, when Jamie saw Van throw his baby sister Nin, then they moved''-reveals Jamie's befuddled state and his efforts to make sense out of inexplicable violence. All of the protagonist's thoughts and reactions ring true. Although its plot is not as far-reaching as that of the author's first novel, Tell Me Everything, this work too seems to spring directly from Coman's heart into the reader's own. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)