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When Dad Killed Mom

When Dad Killed Mom

4.6 30
by Julius Lester

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Jenna and Jeremy knew their parents' marriage was in trouble. But no one could have predicted what would come next. Now with Mom dead and Dad in jail, Jenna and Jeremy must re-create a family of their own. But each guards a secret that could send their fragile new lives into a tailspin. Newbery Honor winner Julius Lester paints a dramatic portrait of a family


Jenna and Jeremy knew their parents' marriage was in trouble. But no one could have predicted what would come next. Now with Mom dead and Dad in jail, Jenna and Jeremy must re-create a family of their own. But each guards a secret that could send their fragile new lives into a tailspin. Newbery Honor winner Julius Lester paints a dramatic portrait of a family forced to confront the unimaginable. Reader's guide included.

Editorial Reviews

If I were just looking at books in the library, I would pick up this one if only because of the title. Overall the book was written very well, but it was somewhat disturbing. It is very serious and I would not recommend it for anyone under sixteen. The issues are hard to deal with even just from a book, especially the psychological problems of the father and the physical attraction from him to his daughter. I think that the book portrays the children's point of view very well. The ending was disappointing because it seemed as if the author just wanted to get it over with. Everything happened in the last few pages as everyone confessed and moved on, kind of clichéd. Other than that, it was a good book, but definitely not one to be taken lightly. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Harcourt, 176p, $17. Ages 15 to 18. Reviewer: Rebekah Carty, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature
Although I admire Julius Lester's work, I didn't want to read this book. A good friend was murdered by her husband, leaving three children orphans. It was too close to home. I opened the book anyway—and couldn't put it down. Twelve-year-old Jeremy and fourteen-year-old Jenna tell the story in alternating chapters. Their voices are compelling, drawing the reader into the drama, never letting up as they pass through stages of disbelief, grief, and the slow process of putting their lives in some sort of order. Jeremy is deep and lovable from the start; Jenna's flaky façade slowly crumbles to reveal an adolescent who might grow into someone special. Fueling this passage is the mystery of why their father acted as he did. The conclusion is believable. It is believable because Lester is such a fine and caring writer. 2001, Silver Whistle/Harcourt, $17.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2001: Jenna, age 14, and Jeremy, age 12, knew their artist mother and their psychologist father weren't getting along. But nothing prepares them for the shocking report that their father has shot their mother to death outside the stationery store in their small college town. Reeling from the news, the children react in different ways. Jenna, always her father's favorite, is at first willing to believe his story that her mother was having an affair, and that he acted out of passionate jealousy. But Jeremy, much more tied to his mother, spends a lot of time in her studio, where he finds her diary. In it Jeremy discovers the surprising truth behind his father's murderous rage, and he reveals it dramatically at his father's trial. Through the autumn, winter, and spring, Jenna and Jeremy try to come to grips with the loss of their parents, one dead and one in jail. Jenna bonds with Karen, her father's ex-wife, and learns some secrets about Karen's past, while Jeremy relies on a kind teacher and the family of a little girl who befriends him. In the end, they are learning to make new lives for themselves and to somehow live with their losses, though their lives have been forever altered. With a title that could be taken from the tabloids, this new novel by the author of Pharaoh's Daughter and many other books for young readers is sure to catch readers' attention. Chapters alternate between the viewpoints of Jenna and Jeremy. Jenna is angry, prone to acting out and yelling profanities, while Jeremy is withdrawn. Their anguish is palpable. How do young people deal with such grief? How do they go about creating new families for themselves?Lester explores these questions here, and succeeds in creating some suspense, too, associated with the father's motive and with Jeremy's courtroom revelation. Not a cheerful read, but an engrossing story. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Harcourt, Silver Whistle, 199p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Lester brings many attributes to his writing for young people: excellent research, a willingness to confront and present controversial topics, aesthetically whole characterizations, and insight on how young people's concerns do not necessarily match those of their elders. All of these attributes inform this novel, which is narrated in the alternating voices of sixth- and eighth-grade siblings, but which takes on issues that require readers to have attained more maturity than the average peers of these characters. The title sums up precisely the plot: the chief psychologist at a small New England college publicly shoots his wife. The ensuing emotional, social, academic, and legal events are presented as they are experienced by the shy, artistic son and his slightly older sister, who is deep in the throes of a tumultuous adolescence. In contrast with Neal Shusterman's What Daddy Did (Little, Brown, 1991), Lester depicts children who were well aware of trouble brewing between their parents. The adults in their lives after the horrific event include the mother's best friend who, curiously, is the father's first wife; their grandparents; the son's art teacher; and the family of a younger schoolmate. The young people undergo personal turmoil, grief, and self-revelation as time passes. This seems to be the crux of the story: the only certain thing in life is change itself. Lester's characters learn how to handle change or become imprisoned by their inability to handle life.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Unerring authenticity. . . . [The book] is spot on."--Chicago Tribune


"A compelling story suffused with raw and honest emotion."--Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Sales rank:
780L (what's this?)
File size:
368 KB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Unerring authenticity. . . . [The book] is spot on."—Chicago Tribune


"A compelling story suffused with raw and honest emotion."—Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

JULIUS LESTER is the author of more than twenty books for young readers. He writes and teaches in western Massachusetts.

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When Dad Killed Mom 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far the first book i got hooked into... this story has real life experieneces in it, realistic, and IT DOESNT COVER BAD LANGUAGES... unlike other books they dont put anything in it. Students and teenagers like me use bad languages every f---ing DAY! We dont get influenced and its not like it hurts anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CoyoteClan is the new name for this clan. Would you like to be leader?, daypelt mewed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is an amazing book! Suspense and a murder, its the perfect book for those who love crime and family violence!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jonny Grajales More than 1 year ago
This is a really intresting book. I like how it tells the story by two siblings. This is a HAVE TO READ book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For school I had to read a book and right a review on it and post it to our school website. I couldn't find a book; so I just randomly picked a book. After reading it for a half an hour, I couldn't put it down! Its a good book to read if you like realistic books and books that you can't seem to get enough of!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cheyanne More than 1 year ago
I've just finished up reading ''When Dad Killed Mom'' by Julius Lester. It has been a very interesting book to read and definitely have enjoyed it. The book can pretty much be defined by the title. It shows the emotions and actions two children went through after there father was thrown in prison for killing there mother in broad daylight. The author explains his reasoning for writing this book in the back of it. He explains that when he looks at people he wonders what they have gone through or if they are happy when they go home at night. He said he had lost alot of people close to him as a child, but never a parent. He never understood how someone so young could deal with a tragedy so bad like one of there parents passing away.(Authors note pg.197) So, from that he pretty much wrote the book from a little bit of experience and alot of curiosity. I believe he wrote this book for others who are also curious on what children in that situation would go through. It gives people a little sense of what they are going through and how you should act towards them if you knew someone who did experience it. This book is narrated by the two children in the story, Jenna and Jeremy, who lost there mother. I feel that it is very important that they tell the story because its there emotions that we want to know about. while alot of people have been on the outside looking in, many have not been there or experienced a death of a parent. The two characters take turns narrating in this story so you get the view from being a little boy and a teenage girl. This story is very moving because it is very accurate. I haven't read anything in it that has been unbelievable, it all seems to be something that could really happen or something i have heard happen before. I really don't connect with anyone in the book. Everyone in it had encountered the death of the children's mother. I haven't had anyone real close to me die so i cant say that i connect with them. I do believe that the author did get his point across that he wanted because, I did feel the emotions and sadness that the kids felt while dealing with everything. I cant think of a specific movie or television show that is comparable to it. It would have to be a movie where a child's parent dies so you can encounter the emotion and the things the go through like in this book. The title is ''When Dad Killed Mom'' and that is exactly what the book is about. The title gives a sense of what is going to happen in the book but there is so much more to go with it. I don't think that this book could be recommended to a certain person but definitely a person who is interested in that type of stuff. Its not a mystery book so if that's what your looking for this is not it. My final conclusions of the book are that it was a good book. I don't read many books so it might just be my opinion. This is the first book i have read by Lester and I wouldn't mind reading another. It was enjoyable at times and at other times you cant wait to hear whats next.''The police found him at home sitting on the front door step with a gun pointed at his head like he was going to kill himself''(pg. 18). If this quote doesn't get you interested don't worry it only gets better. I think that the ending could have been more interesting but the ending shows the truth and how it was supposed to end. I would rate this book with 4 stars and not 5 because I heard that Lester has written books that are ten times better. For being the on
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
princesa74 More than 1 year ago
I read this book one year ago at the school where I work at. Unfurtunatelly, when the librarian discover the language used in the book she decided to removed it from the shelves. I've been looking for it with my coworkers, language art teachers, but none of the have it. I really want to reread it. I really enjoyed reading it; eventhogh, I am an English second language learner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book filled with twists and turns. Julius Lester is top notch. This is a MUST read for anyone who enjoys to read about teens dealing with trying to find out who they are or dealing with a lost. This book uses strong language at times but not all the time. I highly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Dad Killed Mom was a great book and it held my attention all the way through. I recamend this book for any teenager. It showed real life and real situations and i really enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this is a great book and it shows that their is no such thing as a perfect family. I think that this book shows how to overcome things
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is my favorite book. I just couldn't put it down. It so down to earth and similar to what happened to my friend. And the fact that it showed both views of the kids and shows how they feel about it and eachother and if they like their dad. It's just a good book all around.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I only picked this book up because I was bored and I noticed that my sister had it on her bed. Once I started to read I got hooked and finished it in an hour or two. I very much enjoyed the stark and blunt way that Lester wrote this book. I also enjoyed the way it progressed through the two view points of the children Jeremy and Jenna. It was also interesting because I've never read a book with this type of subject matter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really did like this book! My friend told me about it, so I decided to read it. When I went to the library to check it out, the librarian took a look at me and said 'what a lovely title'. I'm glad I read it.It's one of the few books I read in like a week, I really do recommend it!Despite the title, it really is a great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. This is my favorite book of all time. I love the way the author wrote it. I love it cause its sorta like a diary. I cant say how much I loved it but i did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i love this book. it was like i could imagine everything happening. the writer did a good job.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book and could not put it down. he wrote the book like he is a teenager himself and wrote it from both a boy's and girls point of view. i loved this book very much. highly recommended
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester is one of the greatest books of all time. The book is about a 12-year-old boy and his 14-year-old sister who¿s dad shot their mom in the head in the middle of town while they were at school. The book goes back and forth between Jeremy and Jenna; they tell the story though their point of view. They are like any brother and sister in that they have fights, but after the fights they can sit down and cry for their mom. The book is really detailed, but not about the murder. The author did a superb job of making me feel the pain of the kids in their loss. I recommend this book to anyone who has a heart.