Cover image for Walk softly, Rachel
Walk softly, Rachel
Banks, Kate, 1960-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
Physical Description:
149 pages ; 22 cm
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.
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
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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 7-9-Rachel finds her beloved older brother's journal and discovers that his death seven years earlier was a suicide. Family dynamics and unspoken feelings are at the heart of this poetically told, emotionally charged story. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.