Jason's Why by B. Goobie
Goobie, Beth. Jason's Why. Markham: Red Deer Press, 2012, PrintAs "Jason's Why" opens nine-year-old Jason is waiting as his mother carries his things down the stairs, waiting to be taken to a group home. His mother, in her "nice voice" has labelled him "a problem", claiming he is unmanageable when he screams and hits out, so now the social worker is coming to take him away.
At the group home, mistrusting the adults, he hides food in case they do not feed him, watches the hands and feet of the adults in case they hit him, and picks fights with the boys at school so that they will respect him. Jason is living out what he has experienced, his frustration taken out in anger. All he truly wants is to be home with his mother and his little sister. He loves Linda and wants to protect her.
The story is told in his own words, a simple direct vocabulary and short sentences which give a sense of his pent-up frustration. It is as he meets the calm disciplined approach of the adults now around him that he begins to calm down. He finds that he can relate more easily with them, and that his humour will encourage acceptance, at last, from the boys at school where his violence was self-defeating.
Beth Goobie has an important message here. We feel that Jason's violence and frustration has been learned first hand from his family's violence, but the picture can be ameliorated by care, patience and genuine concern.
Now for the difficulty, the book is written in the first person in a simple direct vocabulary and style. This is the voice of a poorly-educated nine-year-old. It brings us a believable hurting child, however I think it is a book that few children will pick up and read on their own, rather it is one to be shared and discussed in a class situation. Many nine-year-olds will be reading at a more advanced level and will be bored by the simple vocabulary and many will not relate easily to the circumstances of the story. There are also moments, too, when expressions or descriptions give away the adult voice behind Jason's story. When Joe explains how and why the staff restrain the boys when they become violent, or when Jason uses an expression like "a big bubble of mad" inside him you sense a narrator other than Jason. These are surely adult explanations of emotions hard for children to express.
However the story will go a long way, with adult commentary, to explain to children, who may have an anguished child in their midst, exactly what is happening and what that child may have endured.
Recommendation: 2 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Andrea Deakin
Andrea has been involved with books since she was class librarian in Primary School; she later served as school librarian in schools both in England and in Canada, except for the first two years in Canada where she arrived in 1959. When she retired from teaching ( English and History) she was invited to review in February 1971, and continued to review for press, radio, and finally on the Internet (Deakin Newsletter from Okanagan College) until she retired in 2011. Forty years seemed sufficient, although she still cannot keep her nose out of good children's and YA fare.