Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

I have a friend and relative who is one of the most avid readers I know. He's recommended more books to me than anyone else. He has also been the biggest inspiration for me as a reader. However, in all the years I've known him, he rarely does more than recommend and talk about a book. So when he walked up to me carrying a book in his hand and put it into mine, saying, "You have to read this book," I knew it was something special.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart is truly an extraordinary book, not only because its young main character, Mark, faces a cruel and unforgiving illness, but also because of the bravery he demonstrates and the loyalty he shares with his dog, Beau. Dan wrote this story for his friend, Mark, who also faced this illness courageously but unfortunately lost the battle. The story isn't focused on the illness at all, but on the steadfast courage of this remarkable young man. He is someone you'd really want to know and his story is incredible, yet totally believable.

Once I'd finished reading the book, I couldn't wait to get it into the hands of my kids. Fortunately for me, I was able to acquire a second copy of the ARC at NCTE, so it has been read and fought over by my fourth grade readers. As readers in my classroom read the book, we shared our own perspectives with each other. We all were impressed with Mark's journey, his smarts, and his dog's loyalty.

One aspect about the writing that has been unanimously noted is the "half" chapter following each chapter. The chapters themselves are written in first-person, from Mark's perspective. He is chronicling his own journey that he feels compelled to complete, despite the dangers. He tells of his detailed plans, how he places his trust in his best friend, Jessie, and the details of interactions with people he meets along the way to climbing a mountain that has been a long-time goal of his. He has not told his parent any of this, knowing they would not approve. The half chapter following is written in third person, giving readers an update on what is happening with Mark's frantic family and the struggle Jessie has with keeping Mark's secret.

The Honest Truth is one of those rare books I can put into the hands of every reader in my classroom. It is easy to identify with and admire Mark. Dan has written it in such a way that even reluctant readers are sucked into Mark's mission. The bravery shown by Mark, the loyalty of Beau, and the friendship of Jessie are not missed by kids, and they have been powerfully impacted by these admirable qualities.

My readers are looking forward to January 27, 2015, when Scholastic Press will be releasing the hard cover book. We'll be buying the book, knowing it will be one of those treasures we will want to re-read again and again.

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