What a beautiful little book! Hope Anita Smith's newest title, Keeping the Night Watch, is a short little novel in verse, telling the story of CJ, a thirteen year old whose father walked out on his family and then makes a reappearance. CJ had to become a man much before his time and when his father waltzes back in the door, expecting forgiveness, the rest of the family easily concedes, but CJ isn't so sure he can trust the man who walked away.
Each page holds a beautiful poem, conducive to the plot, as well as a gorgeous illustration, done by E.B. Lewis. Who would have thought how much impact illustrations could have on a young adult book? They really help tell of CJ's vulnerability and heartache, as well as his distrust in his father. The reader is truly able to feel the emotional value in the book and connect with CJ's pain, yet still feel for his dad. It's all a very real feeling.
We are able to grow with CJ from the beginning, as he first is lost without his father, becomes mature and strong, almost hard, and then when his father comes back, vulnerable and angry. Towards the end we are able to see the softening of CJ's heart, yet Smith left the ending as hopeful,not tidy. Everything does not become sweet and whole, but the path has been marked and CJ is following it.
Keeping the Night Watch is a great book to introduce to reluctant readers of both the middle grade and young adult scale. It's short, always a plus, and there are pictures! Both of which will appeal to the reluctance, but also makes a great story.
To learn more, or the purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.