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Under the Watsons' Porch

Under the Watsons' Porch

4.5 12
by Susan Shreve

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Twelve-year-old Ellie Tremont is b-o-r-e-d, bored, and she wishes something, anything, would happen. So when 14-year-old Tommy Bowers moves in next door, with his lanky swagger and his troubled past, Ellie knows her summer is about to get interesting. When Tommy suggests they start a camp for the kids on their street under their elderly neighbors’(the


Twelve-year-old Ellie Tremont is b-o-r-e-d, bored, and she wishes something, anything, would happen. So when 14-year-old Tommy Bowers moves in next door, with his lanky swagger and his troubled past, Ellie knows her summer is about to get interesting. When Tommy suggests they start a camp for the kids on their street under their elderly neighbors’(the Watsons’) porch, Ellie quickly agrees to that, and everything else Tommy suggests. And when Tommy gives her a diamond necklace that he says he bought, she’s suspicious, though smitten. But by the time her parents forbid her from seeing him, she’s given him her heart. Soon, though, Tommy goes too far and even Ellie isn’t sure what to make of him.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW wrote, "The author tenderly evokes the thrill and anxiety of first love and the universal yearning to belong." Ages 9-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Author Shreve has written a novel for children that tries to explain the unusual and attention-seeking actions of a foster child named Tommy and a twelve-year-old girl named Ellie, who befriends this needy boy for reasons that are not clearly defined. At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Ellie who is a normal young girl feeling left out on her birthday because she has not been invited to a birthday party given by another girl who shares her birthday. It seems Ellie's invitations were sent out after Rosie's and Ellie's friends are attending Rosie's party. Ellie has a young brother Milo, a father, and a mother who Ellie thinks does not understand her. She also has friends, but is feeling put out because of the non-invitation from a girl she does not even like. So it seems that this is enough for her to feel attracted to Tommy whom she has just met. Tommy has ideas of starting a club under the Watson sisters' porch and he asks Ellie to help. Ellie is drawn to this strange, troubled boy who has just moved in with the next-door neighbors. She agrees to help and is excited when Tommy tells her it will be a magical club that all the neighborhood children will want to attend. They are going to have the kids plant seeds and then have them believe that lollipops have grown from those seeds. Of course, Tommy will buy, or as Ellie finds out, steal the lollipops and plop them in the ground. It is though Tommy is trying to create a home and family of his own. But Tommy's penchant for attention and acceptance leads him to steal a necklace from his foster mother and give it to Ellie because he sees how sad she is on her birthday. Tommy tells her he bought it at a store, but she later findsout it is really a diamond necklace taken from the foster mom's jewelry box. Ellie sees that Tommy has a good heart, but she has trouble convincing her mother that she should hang out with this boy who has never had a real home and who seems to always get into trouble. Ellie battles her mother mostly, siding with Tommy until she realizes Tommy does have problems and needs help. She convinces Tommy to return the necklace to his foster mother and to stop his stealing. Ellie's mother relaxes about Tommy and suggests to her that she tell Tommy to try and give his foster mother a chance. The ending seems too simple, with Ellie and Tommy holding hands under the Watsons' porch and concluding that everything has worked out for the best. Author Shreve has written a readable, attention-holding book, but the problems that foster children encounter seem too complicated for such a quick, easy light-handed rendering. 2004, Alfred A.Knopf, Ages 10 up.
—Della A. Yannuzzi
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The novel opens on Ellie Tremont's 12th birthday; she is the quintessential bored preteen. Her summer begins to look up when she meets her new neighbor. Tommy Bowers, 13, is a foster child with lots of swagger, a mysterious past, and bad-boy appeal, and Ellie senses right away that her parents won't like him. He decides that they should run a camp under the elderly and deaf Watson sisters' porch on Saturday mornings for the little kids in the neighborhood. The children love the charismatic boy and he genuinely enjoys entertaining them. Not wanting to leave him, Ellie asserts her independence and refuses to go away to camp. She stops going out with her friends and family, waiting for presumptuous and controlling Tommy to call. He steals an expensive necklace from his foster mother and gives it to Ellie; she is suspicious, but wants to believe everything he says. When he shoplifts some candy, she eventually confronts him. In an ending that seems abrupt and too neat, Tommy inexplicably wins over Ellie's parents. Although Shreve nicely captures emerging adolescence and adeptly explores the thrill and complexity of a girl's first infatuation, some didacticism and the lack of resolution are disappointing.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Ellie Tremont has the blues until "bad boy" Tommy Bowers, who's been shuffled to different families, moves in next door. Although not popular and usually dutiful, Ellie has a penchant for telling lies and wants more excitement in her boring world. She's instantly intrigued by this boy with a past and has no intention of going to an all-girls summer camp now. Her mother quickly judges Tommy as a person to avoid, while Ellie has trouble reconciling Tommy's shoplifting and the Saturday morning camp for the neighborhood children he creates under the elderly Watson sisters' porch. Both begin to understand that Tommy's camp is a way to create his own family and that he is neither a bad boy or a good boy, but just a boy-a lesson that unites mother and daughter after weeks of arguing. Sipping lemonade out of wine glasses and feeling goose bumps from Tommy's touch, Ellie evokes the pangs of first love and the tension between eagerly leaving childhood behind and reluctantly embracing adolescence. (Fiction. 10-13)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

1. Bored to Death

Today, Saturday, June 6, is my birthday and I'm twelve although I tell people who don't otherwise know me that I'm thirteen, and they believe me. I'm an excellent liar.

It's noon and I'm sitting on our front porch in an Adirondack chair drinking pale lemonade, which looks like white wine, from a long-stemmed wineglass, which I took from the cabinet where my mother keeps her best glasses. My parents are out with my brother, Milo, probably buying me some more birthday presents because they feel terrible. At least my parents do. I had to cancel my birthday party, which was going to be today, because Rosie O'Leary was having hers and her invitations got sent out before mine did and I didn't get one from her. So my friends are at Rosie's party and I'm here.

"Maybe the invitation Rosie sent to you was lost in the mail, Ellie," my mother said, trying, as she always does, to be optimistic.

"Rosie didn't send me an invitation, Mom," I said.

"Oh dear," my mother said in that way she has of speaking when she doesn't know what else to say.

"Never mind," I said. "I don't like Rosie and I'd be bored to death at her stupid birthday party."

My mother agreed especially about Rosie, but later I heard my father say he never did like Mr. O'Leary and my mother replied that all of the O'Learys, including the grandmother, were "predatory," her favorite word this year, so I put a pillow over my ears and pretended to be asleep.

"I hope you'll be okay," my mother said just a little while ago as she left the house with Milo and my father for the shops of Toledo. I waved goodbye and said I was fine, and glad not to have a birthday party of my own and especially not to be at Rosie's.

It's exhausting to be the child of parents who worry as much about your happiness as mine do.

From the bathroom window, I had watched them drive away, then took a shower and put on powder blue shorts and an oversized white tee so the hard sticky-out plums on their way to becoming breasts don't show through the shirt. I put my wet hair in a high ponytail, took the fancy wineglass, and that's how I happen to be on the front porch making a list of my special enemies at Duncan Middle School when Tommy Bowers walks out of the yellow house next door.

I catch sight of him trotting down the steps out of the corner of my eye, his hands in the pockets of his trousers, wearing a starchy white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his long black hair floppy across his forehead.

I'm thinking he'll stop, look in my direction, and call out to me.

"What are you doing?" I'm hoping he will ask.

"Just drinking white wine and writing a poem to my boyfriend in South Africa," I'll say, asking him to come up on the front porch and join me.

But he's on his way up the street and I don't think I caught his attention, so there's no chance of talking now.

I don't know Tommy Bowers. This is the first time I've even seen him, but I've heard all about him. All I really know is that the day before yesterday he moved into the yellow house next door with Mr. and Mrs. Bowers--her name is Clarissa--and their old calico cat, Bounce, who is missing an ear. We live in a gossipy neighborhood and people have been talking about the Bowerses ever since they bought the yellow house. Especially they've been talking about Tommy.

"The Bowerses are older parents," my mother confides in me as if she's already become friends with them even though they've never met. "And I understand Tommy's a handful."

"Handful" is my grandmother's word and she usually uses it about me. As if I could fit in anyone's hand, especially my tiny grandmother's.

I lean against the porch railing watching Tommy Bowers walk up the street full of confidence, a little swing to his walk as if he's always lived here.

Our house is gray shingle in the middle of a block that slopes upward in the direction of Tommy's yellow house, which is next to the Brittles and their twin boys. Next to the Brittles is the Watsons' house. The largest house on the block, it's at the top of the street on the corner of Lincoln Road, which is the name of our street, and Jefferson Place.

The Watsons are very old sisters who live alone, and I've almost never seen them. There used to be another Watson sister but she got carried out of the house in a box and the neighborhood kids watched, including Milo and me but not the Brittle twins because their parents wouldn't let them. Four men carried the box down the front steps and put it in the back of a long black car and drove away. The other Watson sisters stood on the porch, their hands folded in front of them, so I know they're tall and skinny and could die at any time, according to Milo, who is interested in these sorts of things and so had an especially good time watching the box come out of the house with the dead Miss Watson in it.

When I look up the hill, I see that Tommy has stopped in front of the Watsons'. He's standing, one shoulder higher than the other, looking up, and he may be talking to someone on the porch but I can't see that far even though I'm leaning over the railing so my stomach is almost sliced in half. I can't see his face although it looks as if he's wearing glasses and now he's folded his arms across his chest.

So I climb up on the railing in order to see the Watsons' porch, which is impossible to see lying on my stomach, and as I do, Tommy looks toward me and raises his hand. Just the slightest motion as if we're already friends and have a secret code. Which is enough of an invitation for me on my birthday.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Under the Watsons' Porch 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to admit, even though it says that it is a kids book, it's a really good book and I could NOT stop reading it once I started!! definately recomend this book to others!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It says its a childrens book.it sounded really good but now idk if i want to read it if its a stupid kids book.cn some1 who read this tell me if its a "stupid childrens book"
Emily Weser More than 1 year ago
I havent read the hole book yet but i love it so much
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much. I read this book for a book report in 6th grade for the Reading class and it was the best book i have ever read. Now she is my favorite author and i have recommened those books to my friends and they love the book to. I am reading all of her books and now i am reading Kiss Me Tomorrow and i love it. But my favorite book that i read from Susan Shreve is Under The Watsons Porch. That is my favorite book in the world!!! Thank you so much Susan Shreve for writing that book and thank you my 6th grade reading teachers for tellling that is was a good book and that i should read it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Words can not describe how much I love this book! I think this book is relatiable for girls and boys my age (14). I finnished the entire book in one day! Again I say words can not desctibe how much I love this book! Thank you to the amazing author who wrote this book with such love! Best book she has ever written!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a very good and interesting book. If you like those 2 things then you will like this book!! I would have never read this book if it wasn't for my 6 th grade teacher. I am reading other books from the same author 'a.k.a. Susan Shreve'. But my favorite book by her is Under the Watsons Porch. when i read that book i did not want to put it down. I would read it when ever i had time!! If you read it you would love it like Me!! I told all my friends to read it and they loved it to!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book really relates to a teenagers life. When you find a person that you like or love you will do anything to be with them. When my sister pointed out the book, it didn't look very interesting because of the cover, but when I read the summary, I couldn't wait to finish the book. The wierd romance and the suspense of what is going to happen next will keep you hooked until the end. I would definetly recommed this book for othere young adults, as well as parents. It will allow you to look at things a different way when you are done reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i think this book is interesting, but only if you read the summary or you've heard the book was fantastic from someone else. the title isn't very appealing, but the book has a very deep story to it. the main themes of it are friendship and romance. the cover isn't very colorful and the way the book is decorated isn't very luring. but overall, the book was very tempting to read, and if u like interesting stories, you'll ike this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is original and interesting, sure to keep it's readers glued to the end. The characters are deep and realistic. The pages are packed with energy, feeling, and first love...