________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 16. . . .December 21, 2012


Jason's Why.

Beth Goobie.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013.
72 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-484-7.

Subject Headings:
Group homes-Juvenile fiction.
Interpersonal relations-Juvenile fiction.
Family problems-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Kay Weisman.

*** /4



I am at our living-room window. I'm waiting. I can hear my mom. She moves around our house. She goes up and down our stairs. She carries green garbage bags to the door. All my stuff is in those bags. There are three of them.

My name is Jason. I'm nine. Last week, Mom took me to an office. It had a big desk in it. A social-worker lady sat behind the desk. She said, "Hello, Jason."Then she told me her name, but I forgot it. She mostly talked to Mom. I looked out the window, where there was a tree. Birds flew in and out of the tree. Then they flew away.

Mom talks nice to grown-ups. She smiles and uses her nice voice. This makes me nervous, because then she's like someone else. When she's someone else, I don't know what she'll do. I try to be real good when Mom is like this.

The social worker and Mom talked a long time. They talked mostly about me. Mom said I was a problem. She said I yelled and screamed. She said I stole things and ran away. She said I fought with my sister Linda. "I don't know why,"Mom said. "Why is Jason like that? Linda doesn't do those things."

The social worker told me something. She said I was going somewhere new to live. It was called a group home. There were other kids my age there. They had problems, too. The staff at the group home would teach me things. They would teach me how to handle my problems. Then I could move back home.


Nine-year-old Jason has behavioral issues. Mom is abusive (as was Dad, but he has abandoned the family), and no matter how hard Jason tries to be good, it seems that Mom doesn't love him. At school, Jason picks fights with other kids—so that they will leave him alone—but nothing he does seems to prevent his "bubble of mad" outbursts. Mom arranges for him to be sent, unwillingly, to a group home where Jason is afraid of many things: Will the staff punish him when he does bad things? Will they refuse to feed him? Will he never see his family again?

      Told in first person present tense using a hi-low format, Jason's account is both illuminating and moving. Jason is upset to be sent away from the only family he has ever known, but he is pleasantly surprised by the kindness and fairness of the adults he now encounters. Granted, if he tantrums, they place him in restraints (so that he won't hurt himself or others), but they don't hate him, hurt him, or yell at him. And he learns that it is possible for other kids to like him when he uses words and humor as an alternative to fighting.

      The question of audience is a bit problematic. The book's bibliotherapeutic uses are obvious; others in Jason's situation will no doubt find it useful, especially if they encounter group homes operating on the same high level as the one depicted here. Jason's Why may also be useful for regular education children encountering students like Jason in their own classes—although it would be unfortunate if readers assumed that all behavior-challenged students come from the same background as Jason. Despite these concerns, this title is recommended for Jason's honest portrayal of a child learning to cope with a difficult life.


Kay Weisman, a longtime librarian and reviewer, now writes "Information Matters" for School Library Monthly and is a youth librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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