By Clyde Robert Bulla, Illustrated by Thomas B. Allen
Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers; New edition (September 12, 1987)
Available in: paperback, library binding
At the time of this review there were two books in this series.
The Chalk Box Kid moves softly but has a powerful undercurrent of truth and emotion. Originally published in 1987, this short chapter book is a simple story about a boy who’s in the midst of difficult changes. Simple can be so deceiving, can’t it?
With easy pacing, this story deftly steps through anticipation, disappointment, sadness, disgust, loss of control, bullying, attempts at positive change, loneliness, budding friendship, missteps, betrayal and, ultimately, redemption. That’s no simple task. Esteemed author Bulla employs a literary style rarely seen in contemporary children’s works. He paints opening scenes that are bleak but, through the elegant rhythm of the prose, quite beautiful.
The young protagonist, Gregory, is left almost entirely alone through the whole saga of a move and new school. His parents appear distracted and beaten-down, which forces him to navigate the world completely on his own. Even when he tries to engage his parents, they don’t seem to hear him. There is no helicopter parenting here, only the cold reality of hard times.
But Gregory is an able guide for the young readers who pick up this classic. He shows fortitude and creativity, all through Bulla’s quiet inspiration and craft.
The original illustrations by artist Allen are blurry and indistinct, mirroring the nostalgic feel of the time, Gregory’s unsure life and the titled chalk. Brilliant.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….