I absolutely devoured this book. I’ve always been interested in memoirs, based-on-fact stories, biographies, and just plain fiction about people who live on the fringes: people with mental illness, the disabled, children who are neglected or ignored. I like to see how these people see the world, how they approach those who are more “normal” than they are, how they think. Reading about those who are somehow out of the mainstream of what we call normal teaches me something about what it means to be human, and what it means to be made in God’s image.
Window Boy is the story of Sam Davis. In some ways Sam is a typical sixth grader. He’s crazy about basketball. He doesn’t like math so much, but he does quite well at language arts. He wishes he had more friends.
But Sam’s outside is so different from that of the rest of his new sixth grade class that no one can see any of the things that Sam shares in common with the other boys in the class. Sam has cerebral palsy. He was injured by the doctor at birth, and the only parts of his body that work even halfway well are his tongue and his right hand. Sam has never even been to school before. It’s 1968, and not many children who are as severely physically handicapped as Sam are allowed to go to a regular public school.
Sam can talk —a little. And he can use a letter board to communicate and do his school assignments. The question is whether or not his teacher and his new classmates and the PTA and the principal will give him a chance to prove himself, prove that he can learn and go to school just like everyone else. And will his single mother be able to keep their apartment in spite of money problems that are threatening to make Sam’s public school experiment a short one? And will Miss Perkins, Sam’s nurse and interpreter, be able to help him make the transition and make friends? Finally, will Sam be able to live up to the example of his hero, Winston Churchill, who overcame a difficult childhood to become one of the world’s greatest leaders?
I found this book to be both inspiring and absorbing. It probably could have benefitted from some tighter editing; there’s a lot of extraneous material at the end especially which interested me but might not appeal to kids, and sometimes the pace is a little slow. However, I didn’t care. Sam’s story was amazing, and I had to keep reminding myself that this book was a work of fiction, not a biography or a memoir. I wanted to find out where Sam was now; I actually wanted to write him a letter of encouragement and congratulations. I predict that many of the middle schoolers who read this book will try to do just that, not realizing that Sam is a fictional character.
The emphasis on bravery and perseverance and on Sam’s relationship with Winnie (Winston Churchill with whom Sam carries on a rich interior dialog) is moving and will be an encouragement to those children and adults who are facing their own life challenges. I think the book will appeal to the Helen Keller fans, whose numbers are legion, who are looking to step up to a more demanding read. Boys who are interested in sports but unable to play for one reason or another may also identify with Sam’s love of basketball. Kids with CP or other disabilities should read this one or have it read aloud to them. Kids who need to understand the world of disability, and all of us do, should also get a taste of Window Boy. It’s not at all didactic, but highly educational nevertheless.
Andrea White on inspiring young people with fiction: