Cover image for What Jamie saw
What Jamie saw
Coman, Carolyn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Puffin Books, 1997.

Physical Description:
126 pages ; 18 cm
Having fled to a family friend's hillside trailer after his mother's boyfriend tried to throw his baby sister against a wall, nine-year-old Jamie finds himself living an existence full of uncertainty and fear.
Reading Level:
1010 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 3.0 15819.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 6.8 5 Quiz: 12379 Guided reading level: T.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Mass Market Paperback Young Adult

On Order



So begins one of the most compelling novels for young readers published in recent memory. It is a story of survival -- how nine-year-old Jamie, his mother, and his baby sister Nin leave an abusive situation, move to a small trailer in the woods, and slowly learn how to trust the people around them -- and each other.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. From its opening sentence, Coman's latest grabs your attention: "When Jamie saw him throw the baby, saw Van throw the little baby, saw Van throw his little sister Nin, when Jamie saw Van throw his baby sister Nin, then they moved." Coman captures in lyrical prose the rush of feelings third-grader Jamie experiences when his mother, having successfully caught the baby, packs them in the car and flees to a friend's trailer. Jamie likes the small space, where, "if someone went flying," they wouldn't go far, and there are no sharp edges, but when he and his mother venture out to a school carnival and think they spot Van, their fear overwhelms them. Fortunately, Jamie's teacher spies them crouching, and when Jamie misses more than a week of school, Mrs. Desrocher lends them the support they need to reenter the normal world. Coman depicts with visceral clarity the reactions of both Jamie and his mother, capturing their jitteriness and the love that carries them through the moments when they take their fear out on each other. Coman admirably overcomes the technical difficulties she has set for herself in beginning her novel with such an intense scene, and her conclusion, with Van deflated by the unified front Jamie and his mother present, satisfies and feels truthful. Jamie, with his acute observations and ability to completely immerse himself in the moment, is a memorable character children will recognize as being just like them. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

What third-grader Jamie saw-his baby sister being hurled across the room by his stepfather, Van-is the first image in this heart-wrenching book. What follows are the effects of the incident on the boy: his relief when baby Nin is caught, miraculously, by his mother, Patty; his gratitude and anxiety when Patty moves them out of the abusive household; and, most powerful of all, his underlying fear that Van will find their new home, a friend's trailer, where Jamie, Patty and Nin live like ``sitting ducks.'' Coman so deftly slips into the skin of her main character that he seems almost to be dictating to her. The opening sentence, for example-``When Jamie saw him throw the baby, saw Van throw the baby, saw Van throw the little baby, saw Van throw his little sister Nin, when Jamie saw Van throw his baby sister Nin, then they moved''-reveals Jamie's befuddled state and his efforts to make sense out of inexplicable violence. All of the protagonist's thoughts and reactions ring true. Although its plot is not as far-reaching as that of the author's first novel, Tell Me Everything, this work too seems to spring directly from Coman's heart into the reader's own. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Bronson Pinchot provides a chilling performance of Carolyn Coman's Newbery Honor book (Front Street, 1995) about a family living on the edge of poverty and hopelessness. Nine-year-old Jamie saw his mother's boyfriend, Van, throw his baby sister against a bedroom wall. Jamie's mother catches the baby in her arms just before it hits the wall. Pinchot's superbly timed reading quickly gathers momentum as the children are hastily bundled into the car for a nighttime journey to a friend's house on the outskirts of town. There they hide out from Van, while Jamie's mother smokes too much and Jamie practices magic tricks. School presents another problem, because Jamie's teacher is too curious about his absence. Money is scarce and the car is temperamental. All the pieces of Jamie's life add up to a river of fear that threatens to carry him away. The well-written, touching story is revealed through Jamie's child's-eye view. The recording includes a fascinating epilogue in which Coman relates her experiences as a teacher and how she came to know and care for students whose lives were similar to Jamie's. This offering will satisfy those "realistic fiction" homework assignments.-Celeste Steward, Contra Costa County Library, Clayton, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.