The Paper Boy by Isabelle Holland is another title recommended for the 2011-2012 Pikes Peak Region Battle of the Books list. Set in New York in 1881, it tells the story of twelve-year old Kevin O’Donnell who dreams of some day being a newspaper reporter. His father prefers that he learn a trade, but is glad of the extra money Kevin brings in after landing a job as a messenger for the New York Chronicle. Not long after Kevin starts work on the paper, his father becomes ill and is unable to work. It is up to Kevin to support himself, his father and his little sister. He wants to find extra work, in addition to his messenger work, but his boss, Mr. Langley wants him to stay in school. As Kevin grows closer to his boss, Mr. Langley’s son becomes increasing resentful of Kevin. He even accuses Kevin of stealing. Will Kevin lose his job? What will happen to his ill father and younger sister?
I enjoyed this story for two reasons. Kevin and his family are Irish immigrants and I love most things Irish. When I was Kevin’s age, I too wanted to be a writer. I even considered a career in the newspaper industry. Though the story starts off very serious, it ends light hearted, almost too much so. The ending had the feel of “an everything is solved in 30 minutes sitcom”. School Library Journal listed it as suitable for grades 4 – 6. I would place it at a 3rd grade level. I would not consider it a 5th grade book and therefore would not recommend it for Battle of the Books, which is for 5th graders. While we want the students to enjoy the books on the list, we also want to challenge them a little.
Mrs. Archers rating 3 of 5.