Brown and Company 2000
a way, we read books to help us remember ourselves. And if were
lucky, certain books remind us of the better part of something weve
forgotten, of a time that was much simpler and somehow better. Tony
Earleys Jim the Boy
takes place on a depression-era
farm, and whether we have experienced this place and time or not,
the author makes sure we know what it felt like to be there. The
author makes sure we are able to remember our own childhood by reading
If I said this
book was simple, Id be telling the truth, but only part of
the truth. If I said this book was exceptional Id be telling
part of yet another truth. But when I say this book is beautifully
honest I am telling you that it is poetic in a way that other books
can only hope to be. Its the drop of water on a lazy summer
daysatisfying and appropriate. Its a book that touches
us and doesnt leave the marks to show. We couldnt explain
and the tenth year in Jim the Boys life. Jim's father, Jim
Glass, Sr., died just before Jim was born. Young Jim, however, feels
the presence of the father through the stories his mother and her
three brothers tell for his benefit. Elizabeth Glass is a strong,
sensitive woman; her brothers play the dual roles of uncle and surrogate
We first glimpse
Jim as he wanders in rows of waist-high corn with the Uncles. The
taste of hard work is dripping down his temples, even though its
his birthday. He throws rocks to the end of the field to note the
length of his hoeing and how much farther he has to go. Quietly,
a smile rises on the readers face because we all remember
doing that. Throwing a rock marks the beginning and ending of a
lot of things. Jim desperately doesnt want to disappoint the
uncles but hes tired and having a hard time keeping up. "He
has started a journey he knew he could not finish. He felt a sob
gather up in his stomach like a cloud."
couldnt have done a better of job of describing the gravity
and simplicity of childhood pain.
This book isnt
plot-driven but the reader is never unsure about whether he or she
wanst to turn the next page; after a while, it just becomes necessary.
This book chronicles a year in the life of Jim. It is year that
in which electricity and polio come to North Carolina. But these
arent the largest parts of the big picture; the larger more
significant points are present in the more subtle and typical depictions
of Jims childhood. Everything Jim encounters becomes a source
of wonder, from his new school's unfinished ceilings to the morning
The world at that early hour seemed newly made, unfinished;
the air, still sweet with dew, an invention thought up that morning.
In the low places near the river, stray ghosts of fog still hunted
among the trees
.The sky, in a moment Jim didn't notice until
the moment had passed, turned blue, as if it had never tried the
color before and wasn't sure anyone would like it.
The best parts
of this book deal with Jim's deceivingly simple discoveries. The
important lessons Mr. Earley presents are so quiet and confident
that its easy to miss them.
In one example
of the largeness and smallness of Jims childhood, Uncle
Al decides to take him on a business trip. They journey Charlotte
and end up in a vast and unexplored South Carolina. And since
theyve traveled that far, Uncle Al decides that they might
as well just head over to the ocean because a man in his forties
should see such a thing in his lifetime. Tony Earley sums up Jims
experience of the Atlantic beautifully in this passage:
As the sun began to set, Jim and the uncles
watched the last yellow light of the day slide up the mountain
toward the bald, dragging evening behind it. When the light went
out of their faces, they turned and watched it retreat up the
peak, where at the summit a single tree flared defiantly before
going dark. A chilly breeze whipped from nowhere across the bald
and flapped the legs of Jim's overalls. He turned with the uncles
for a last look at the view before heading down the mountain.
All but the brightest greens had drained out of the world, leaving
in their stead an array of somber blues. A low fog had begun to
seep out between the trees along Painter Creek. Jim jumped down
from the rock and looked again toward home.
isnt filled with technology and gadgets. But Jim Glass experiences
the same range of emotional expression and trauma that children
do today. Tony Earley reminds us of life in the depression, of
childhood lessons we wont forget, of wonder of the world
that weve lost as adults. But most of all, this author reminds
us that a childs growth and development depend much more
on the loving environment of the child than on what technological
privileges the child has. Healthy and loving adults grow healthy
and loving children in the simplest times with the simplest things.
book is told from Jims point of view, it is never cutesy
or juvenile; instead its beautifully innocent and honest.
The language is plain but the lessons are monumental. This is
a universal story written in the language of human beings. As
such, it is a story we can all understand and love.