Cover image for Walk softly, Rachel
Title:
Walk softly, Rachel
Author:
Banks, Kate, 1960-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
Physical Description:
149 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
When fourteen-year-old Rachel reads the journal of her brother, who died when she was seven, she learns secrets that help her understand her parents and herself.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
510 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 3.7 4.0 73775.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 2.7 9 Quiz: 34458 Guided reading level: R.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description http://www.loc.gov/catdir/description/hol031/2002026503.html
ISBN:
9780374382308
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Fourteen-year-old Rachel remembers little about her brother, Jake, except that he died in a car accident when she was seven and he was seventeen. Her parents rarely talk about him, but his presence in the family can be felt and his room has been left untouched. It's by means of Jake's journal that Rachel begins to know her brother and learns that his death was a suicide. With candor and humor, Rachel filters Jake's anguished journal entries through her own experiences - her relationship with her parents and grandmother; the departure of her best friend, Adrian; and her growing involvement with the likable son of family friends who may be as troubled as Jake. In unraveling her family's secret and examining her own shortcomings, Rachel gains sympathy for her parents, realizing that they are all survivors.

Kate Banks explores inner lives with exquisite sensitivity and precision. Sometimes funny, often sad, but painfully true, Walk Softly, Rachel is a story of love, loss, and letting go.


Author Notes

Kate Banks is the author of Dillon Dillon and many award-winning picture books, including And If the Moon Could Talk, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner; The Night Worker, winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award; and The Bird, the Monkey, and the Snake in the Jungle . She lives in France.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-10. When Rachel was seven, her older brother, Jake, was killed in a car crash just before his high-school graduation. Now 14, Rachel finds herself wondering more about beloved Jake, a star athlete and good student. In Jake's still-intact bedroom, Rachel discovers a diary, and as she slowly works her way through the pages, she gains a startling, new understanding of her brother's troubled inner life, her perfect parents, and the way her own grief has short-circuited her emotions: I laugh when I want to cry, and cry when I want to laugh. Jake's diary entries are interspersed among Rachel's first-person narrative about her life now. Both voices belong to observant, precocious young people whose self-awareness and poetic language don't always sound authentic, but Banks captures emotional truths with a subtle, intelligent sensitivity. Many readers will recognize the pain that comes with revealing family secrets and accepting deep failures in the closest heroes--friends, siblings, and loving parents. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Banks's (Dillon, Dillon) mesmerizing prose draws readers into the world of 14-year-old Rachel as she struggles to understand the repercussions of a family tragedy. It has been seven years since her older brother, Jake, died at age 17, but only now does Rachel find his journal. Deftly intertwining poetic excerpts from the diary with Rachel's reflections, the author draws a poignant, painfully honest sketch of a family bearing invisible scars. Reasons for the characters' idiosyncrasies-Rachel's mother's obsession with finding a new house, her father's tendency to joke about serious things, and Rachel's habit of laughing when she's sad and crying when she's amused-gradually come to the surface as Rachel makes connections between Jake's death and the present state of her family. At the same time readers become intimately acquainted with Rachel, they also come to know Jake, a sensitive, highly intelligent boy trapped by his emotions ("Once there was a boy named Jake. Some people are born with too many fingers or too much hair. Jake was born with too many feelings," Jake writes). Sensitively revealing the mystery of Jake's death, the author leaves it to the audience to judge what doomed Jake and what marks his sister as a survivor. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-This powerful and insightful novel by Kate Banks (Farrar, 2003), narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan, is a story for our time. Fourteen-year-old Rachel is devastated that her best friend is moving. The loss of this confidant evokes memories of the death of her brother, Jake, in a car accident seven years before. Although her parents never speak of Jake, his room has been carefully preserved. Trying to get to know her brother, she looks through his things and finds his journal, reading segments which reflect his innermost thoughts. Rachel's mother is a circuit judge in black, and her father a surgeon in white. At home, as at work, they deal with things on the surface, insulating themselves from emotions. Growing up in this dysfunctional family, Rachel has developed a distressing and embarrassing behavioral quirk where she laughs when things are sad and cries when things are comical. By working through her own problems and learning the truth about her brother's life and death, she is able to effect positive change in her family as well as in her own life. The novel is extremely well crafted. Rachel is the narrator and we care about her problems, but the spotlight is on Jake. Through his journal excerpts, expertly interwoven into his sister's story, we learn of his progressive disillusionment with his life. Everyone sees Jake as a shining star, gifted academically and a sports hero, but this is all a facade. The author has explored the very real problem of the dichotomy between how parents perceive their children and how youngsters view themselves. Alyssa Bresnahan does a good job of rendering the characters except for a choppy beginning with Rachel's voice that is soon smoothed out. This work should definitely be included in high school and public library young adult audio collections. Middle school media specialists should use their discretion as some of the journal entries are stark. This is an excellent recording of an exceptional novel that handles difficult and painful topics with sensitivity and honesty.-Carol Y. Barker, Wheelerville School, Caroga Lake, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.