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

In a starred review of this "heartwrenching" 1996 Newbery Honor book about escaping domestic violence, PW said, "This work seems to spring directly from Coman's heart into the reader's own." Ages 9-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9‘With wrenching simplicity and mesmerizing imagery, Coman articulates nine-year-old Jamie's baffled, stream-of-consciousness observations of a violent act that robs him of his security, but not his innocence. Awakened in the middle of the night by some primal sense of alarm, the sleep-disoriented boy watches his stepfather reach into his baby sister's crib and throw her across the room. And then he watches his mother step into the bedroom doorway and catch her flying baby. Patty deposits her pajama-clad children into the safety of her rusty old Buick, collects the bare necessities, and leaves. With the help of her friend Earl, Jamie's teacher, and even her mother-in-law, Patty finds her way back to work and into a support group for battered wives. In a trailer out in the middle of nowhere, she and Jamie tough it out, slowly reinventing their lives. Revealed through the boy's clear, unprejudiced eye, characters, though rough and uneducated, are not stereotyped. It is Jamie who is most delicately and lovingly wrought. His love of magic tricks, illusion, and sleight of hand sustains him through the bad times. Shocking in its simple narration and child's-eye view, What Jamie Saw is a bittersweet miracle in understated language and forthright hopefulness.‘Alice Casey Smith, Sayreville War Memorial High School, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.