The Graduation of Jake Moon

The Graduation of Jake Moon

4.5 12
by Barbara Park, Barry Marcus

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Jake Moon used to love the time he spent with his grandfather, Skelly, but that was before Skelly got Alzheimer's disease. All of a sudden, it's as if Skelly is the kid, and Jake has to be the grown-up. Much of Skelly's care becomes Jake's responsibility, and that doesn't leave much time for a

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Jake Moon used to love the time he spent with his grandfather, Skelly, but that was before Skelly got Alzheimer's disease. All of a sudden, it's as if Skelly is the kid, and Jake has to be the grown-up. Much of Skelly's care becomes Jake's responsibility, and that doesn't leave much time for a life of his own.
Then, one day Jake rebels, and the unthinkable happens. Has Jake discovered too late how much his grandfather still means to him?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
HAs she did in Mick Harte Was Here, Park introduces an uncommonly sympathetic and articulate young narrator who lightly relays a story with tragic underpinnings. Here, eighth-grader Jake Moon recounts his beloved grandfather's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease and the dramatic changes his illness brings to Jake's life. Since his infancy, Jake and his single mother have lived with big-hearted Skelly, who "had a way of believing in you, that made you want to believe in yourself." Never maudlin, even infusing sturdy humor into some of his sad observations, Jake poignantly describes Skelly's gradual debilitation as Alzheimer's robs him of his memory and brings on a heartbreaking reversal of roles between adult and child. Park subtly and affectingly reveals Jake's growing maturity and acceptance of an awful inevitability. The plot culminates in Jake's eighth-grade graduation, when the boy rushes to his grandfather's side after the old man wanders onto the auditorium stage and starts to cry in his confusion. At one point in the story, Skelly breaks into a huge grin when served his favorite breakfast and Jake comments: "It was one of those moments that can make you smile and break your heart at the same time." Readers will discover many such moments in this memorable novel. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly
PW gave a starred review to this "memorable" novel narrated by an eighth-grader whose beloved grandfather has Alzheimer's disease. Ages 9-12. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
You know what you'll get in each new book from Barbara Park. When you see her name on a book's cover, you expect humor and characters who are very human and real. In her latest book, Park's humor takes a back seat to her commitment to character. Her new hero is Jake Moon, the son of a single mother, who has grown up with his supportive, nurturing Grandfather Skelly. Now, Skelly has Alzheimer's disease and Jake is resentful, embarrassed and overwhelmed with responsibility. The book might be funny if Jake were not hurting so much. Park is true to Jake and lets him take the lead. She does the best she can for him by giving him the gifts of intelligence, honesty and the sardonic sense of humor so many middle schoolers understand. Tortured while writing a book report, Jake comments, "Trust me, if anyone in your class ever looks amused while you're giving an oral book report, it's because your zipper is down." 2000, Atheneum, $15.00. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Three boys watch an old man teeter on the side of a dumpster. Two of them taunt him until he acknowledges them and they realize that he doesn't understand their insults. The third boy is Jake, the confused man's grandson. This short and moving novel deals with his relationship with his grandfather as Skelly's Alzheimer's slowly worsens. The youngster changes considerably from when readers meet him in third grade until his graduation from eighth grade. He starts out looking after his grandfather an hour a day, a job that becomes more and more onerous. He is embarrassed by Skelly's increasingly erratic behavior and becomes alienated from his friends. His relationships with his wealthy aunt and cousin are also strained because Jake feels that they are buying their way out of caregiving. Jake is a well-rounded and believable character surrounded by colorful and equally realistic supporting characters. His acceptance of Skelly's condition and the evolving relationships in his family signal a hopeful start to the next phase of his life. This novel demonstrates the horror of Alzheimer's disease, both to the afflicted person and to the loved ones, and it is written in an accessible style that will appeal to a wide audience.-Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Canada Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Jake Moon's grandfather Skelly used to be the emotional fixer in Jake's household, the one who soothed his hurts and helped him through hard times. But when Jake is in third grade, Skelly begins forgetting things and by the time Jake is ready to graduate from eighth grade Skelly's Alzheimer's has progressed to the point where he is barely aware of his surroundings. Jake learns from Skelly's doctor that Alzheimer's disease has three stages, "each . . . worse than the one before it," which Jake thinks of as "(1) sad, (2) sadder, and (3) the saddest thing you've ever seen." The book chronicles not only Skelly's deterioration, but also the effect it has on Jake and his relationships with other family members and friends. As Skelly's condition worsens, their roles reverse and Jake finds himself caring for the man who once cared for him. That, coupled with the fact that his grandfather has become a tremendous embarrassment—at a sleepover, Skelly shows up in Jake's room without any pants or underpants, for example—causes Jake to disengage from friends and extracurricular activities. Park's convincing first-person narration rings true, and she is particularly adept at rendering Jake's complex emotional journey, which encompasses love, confusion, sadness, anger, embarrassment, shame, and finally acceptance. The book has some funny moments, but it's one of Park's darker, more poignant creations; readers expecting a Skinnybones-type laugh-a-thon will be sadly disappointed. Nonetheless, Park has produced a perceptive book that should prove useful to children who must navigate similar waters. (Fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Twist

There are these three eighth-grade boys. They've just gotten out of school for the day. And they're about to take off in different directions, when they notice something going on in the trash Dumpster at the other end of the parking lot.

They're still pretty far away from it, but they can see an old man sitting on the edge of the thing. His back is facing them, and he's just sort of balancing himself there. Staring down into the bottom of the Dumpster.

The boys watch him for a second. And then one of them starts grinning. And he cups his hands around his mouth and shouts out, "Hey! Don't jump, Pops! You've got everything to live for!"

Then one of the other boys yells, "Yeah! Plus I heard the food is much better at the Dumpster up the street!"

So after that, both kids totally crack up. And it becomes this contest, sort of, to see who can holler out the funniest insults at the old guy.

Like the first kid asks the old man if he went to P.U. University. And then the second kid asks if he has any Grey Poupon.

But the third kid, see, he's just standing there not saying a word. Instead, his eyes are glued to the old guy, almost. Like he's waiting for a reaction.

Only that's the thing. Because there is no reaction. Not at first, anyway. At first, the old man never even turns around. So the boys begin to think that maybe the guy's deaf or something. Which totally takes the fun out of shouting insults.

But then — out of the blue — something seems to click in the old man's brain. I mean, even from the back you can see his head sort of perk up. It's like he gets it now, you know? He suddenly understands that all this yelling has been directed at him.

And so he lowers himself down into the trash bin. And then he turns around to see who's been talking to him.

And that's pretty much that. The fun is over. Because even from the other end of the parking lot, it's obvious to the boys that there's something really wrong with the old guy. That he's just not right in the head. Instead of acting mad or angry or even insulted, his face actually brightens. And he waves as friendly as anything, and shouts, "Hullo, fellas!"

And it's so pathetic, I can't even tell you.

The two boys shut up after that. I mean, they chuckle a little bit and all. But you can tell they're not exactly busting with pride over making fun of a retarded old man.

But see, the third kid — the one who kept quiet — he doesn't have anything to be ashamed about at all. Because like I said, he didn't do anything.

So if you happened to be passing by and you saw this whole thing going on, you'd probably think that the third kid was the good kid. That he was the one with a conscience or some sense of decency or something.

Only that's the weird thing about this story.

That's the twist, I guess you'd call it.

On account of the third kid turned out to be the most shameful of all.

Because the third kid was me.

And the old man in the Dumpster was my grandfather.

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Park

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