Life is full of unknowns. Sometimes even the things that you feel sure about are not as secure as you thought they were. One of the hardest things for children to cope with is when something happens to a parent. When there is a divorce, when a parent dies, or when a parent walks out, the ramifications for the children in the family can be considerable. Today's poetry title takes readers into the heart and mind of a young man whose father leaves suddenly. The narrative is moving and powerful, and it shows readers what it is like to be a child who is trying to cope with this kind of devastating event.
The way a door closes
Hope Anita Smith
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
For ages 10 to 13
Henry Holt, 2011, 978-0312661694
C.J. lives with his Momma, Daddy, Grandmomma, and his younger brother and sister. On the whole they have a happy life together, and C.J. admires his strong grandmother, his beautiful mother, and his dependable father who reminds C.J. to be proud of who he is. He loves Sunday afternoons, when he and his father and brother go out and do something together, just the three of them.
Then Daddy loses his job and things start to change. Daddy tries not to show his pain and worry, but C.J. still sees it and every day he prays that his father will finally get a job. Every day Daddy comes home without a job. Then, one night, Daddy tells his family that he is going out. Somehow, the way he closes the door makes C.J. feel as if they are “vacuum-sealed inside” the room. Something about the way that Daddy closed that door feels wrong.
Sure enough, that night and the next day Daddy does not come home and C.J. offers to get a job, to even leave school “until we get things squared away,” but Momma won’t hear of it. In fact she gets angry and slaps her son, only to hold him close and cry. As far as she is concerned C.J is too young “to be a man.”
As the days go by, the gloom of Daddy’s absence spreads, and it touches everyone in C.J’s household. People start to think that Daddy is just another dead-beat dad who will never come back.
Written using a series of blank verse poems, this touching book explores how a teenage boy feels when his father abandons his family. Feelings of disbelief, anger and fear swirl through C.J. as he tries to come to terms with the fact that nothing stays the same, and that even strong and loving fathers can get afraid when life deals them a blow.