Mick Harte Was Here

by Barbara Park

School Library Journal Gr 4-6?Park's latest offering is a short, yet surprisingly deep and powerful look at the death of a sibling. Phoebe Harte, 13, recounts the days immediately following the death of her 12-year-old brother, Mick, in a bicycle accident. The author is adept at portraying the stages of grief and the effects of this sudden tragedy on the family. The book's tone of sadness is mitigated by humor, reassurance, and hope. Mick is fondly remembered through his funny escapades as Phoebe comes to realize that, even though he is dead, he will never be lost to her. The ending has real punch?Phoebe is finally able to admit that Mick was not wearing a helmet. A great discussion-starter.?Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

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Publishers Weekly "I don't want to make you cry. I just want to tell you about Mick. But I thought you should know right up front that he's not here anymore. I just thought that would be fair." Phoebe, the eighth-grade narrator of Park's (Buddies; Don't Make Me Smile) heart-wrenching novel, weaves together diverting anecdotes about her endearingly eccentric brother with her reactions, and those of her parents, to his death in a bicycle accident at the age of 12. The genius of this novel is Park's ability to make the events excruciatingly real while entirely avoiding the mawkish; likable Phoebe's frank, at times even funny narration will leave readers feeling as though they've known the girl-and Mick-for a very long time. Park's ability to convey so affectingly both the individual and collective pain of this family's members is remarkable. She focuses on small moments-the father closing the door to Mick's room upon returning from the hospital; the mother covering her ears because she cannot bear Phoebe's talk about her brother. But the novel has another crucial dimension in that it stresses the importance of wearing bike helmets. Midway through the story, in response to Phoebe's misplaced sense of guilt, Phoebe's father introduces the subject: "He heaved a God-awful sigh and whispered, `If only I had made him wear his helmet.'" The message is skillfully reprised toward the conclusion, in a powerful scene in which Phoebe overcomes her own pain and anger to participate in a school assembly on bicycle safety. An author's note at the end reinforces the message. To Park's great credit, the lesson never dominates-the story reads not as a cautionary tale, but as a full-fledged and fully convincing drama. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Gr. 5-7. Park turns her wry eye on a serious subject, the death of a sibling. With love, wit, and anger, 13-year-old Phoebe Harte describes her brother, Mick, and the effect his death has on the family. It is a bike accident that kills Mick, and Park does an excellent job of capturing the shock and dissociation that a sudden death can cause in survivors. There's so much here that rings true: what friends can (and cannot) do, the inevitable rantings against God, and the seesaw emotions experienced by the whole family. Where Park goes a bit over the top is in her description of Mick, a real wiseacre, who puts a ceramic eye in a defrosted chicken and goes trick-or-treating as Thomas Crapper, inventor of the toilet. Not that this isn't funny stuff, but Park's inflation of Mick oddly diminishes him. Still, there is a sea of real emotions here, and readers, whether they've been touched by death or not, will find themselves touched by this book. Park's author's-note plea for kids to wear bike helmets (such a helmet could have saved Mick) may now fall on responsive ears. --Ilene Cooper

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Thirteen-year-old Phoebe works through raw grief and depression after her younger brother, Mick, is killed in a bicycle accident. A loving family, a sense of humor, and memories of mischievous Mick give Phoebe the strength she needs to speak about her brother at a school assembly. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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