Recommended for ages 9-13
Crow is a boy who should be in 6th grade by now. He’s lonely and wants a friend, but he’s stuck indoors by his overprotective mom, who worries that the outside world will take Crow away from her once they discover her secret: Crow died two years ago.
Crow doesn’t remember much about how he died; he just sort of died. But he remembers waking up to his mother’s tears. Since then, he’s been a bit stinky, has a bit of a maggot problem, and tends to lose body parts. All Crow wants is a friend, and maybe not to stink so much. When an eccentric girl named Melody moves in next door, she’s fascinated by Crow. She’s undeterred by his mother’s efforts to keep her away – keep everyone and everything away – from Crow, and at last, Crow finally has a friend. When they go wandering one night, they discover a creature, the Meera, that has deep ties to Crow and his family – and another family in the neighborhood. Can Crow learn the Meera’s secrets, save one of his former classmates, and maybe – just maybe – be a real boy again?
This was a great read for middle graders who like a touch of the macabre in their fiction. If your kids have read and enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Graveyard Book, or Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, consider introducing them to this one. I’d like to pair this book with A.F. Harrold’s The Imaginary for a heck of a book discussion. (Hmm… I see a really interesting book display forming in my brain.) Laurel Gale gives us such an empathy toward poor Crow, at the same time letting us cringe and chuckle at his… well, deadness. I felt his yearning for a friend and his loneliness, his frustration with his mother, who keeps too many secrets “for his own good”, and the desperation to know what happened to him. Melody is a great sidekick, a friend with some wild theories that aren’t too off the mark. We get some great comeuppance for mean girls and bullies, too.
At the same time, we see the toll that the loss of a child takes on a marriage, and the lengths that parents will go to in order to keep their children safe and happy. It’s a bit disturbing at times, but it’s an honest look into a parent’s psyche that will make for some great family book group discussions. Read this book with your kids, with your classes, and let the dialogue flow.
Laurel Gale ‘s author page features Dead Boy and some basic contact info for the moment; hopefully, as the book gets closer to publishing date, we’ll get some more resources.