MUSEITYOUNG: An abused boy learns that accepting help from friends is better than running from his problems or destroying things.
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Rating: 5/5
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Author: Barbara Bockman
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Genre: middle grade MuseItYoung novella - Social Issues

Release: September 16, 2011

Editor: Nancy Bell

Line editor: Valerie Haley

Cover artist: Kaytalin Platt

Words: 30180

Pages: 93

ISBN: 978-1-927085-54-7

Price: $4.50

Warning: Contains two bad words.



After Craig’s mom dies, his dad becomes abusive. Craig reacts by vandalizing others’ property and becomes an outcast in the community. Finally he runs away. Though he tries to cut down a tree belonging to his neighbors, the Arks, they open their hearts to him and take him into their home. Craig’s dad also runs away, and his disappearance is a mystery. Nelson Ark’s dog, Siegfried, sort of adopts Craig, seeming to sense that Craig needs a friend and someone (dog) to love. The whole community, including the group, Kids for a Better Tomorrow (K’BeTs), join together to present a Winter Carnival to raise money for the tree’s care. One of the K’BeTs, a cute girl, Carson, befriends Craig, realizing he is remorseful. In attempting to “mend” the tree, Craig mends his own life.



Craig looked around at the people in the courtroom. They looked as puzzled as he felt. But Craig knew he was the most stunned of all. When he looked at Mr. Ark their gaze met and locked. With the specter of the tree hovering between them, Craig saw a co-mingling of intense pain and tenderness on Mr. Ark’s face.

How could I go live with him?  I’m his worst enemy.

“Your Honor,” said Mr. Ark, “my wife and I don’t want Craig to get into the state system; nor do we want him returned to his father—at least not yet.”

“Let me get this straight, Mr. Ark.” Judge Borosky’s gaze bored into Mr. Ark’s eyes. “You are offering your home to the vandal who tried to destroy one of your most prized possessions?”

“I know it’s bizarre, Your Honor. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no Goody Two-Shoes. This is just common sense. I don’t want to put this boy in a place where he can learn to become a real criminal.”

“Oh, I suspect there’s more than common sense at play here…but we’re not sending him to prison, Mr. Ark.”

“Yes, sir. Nevertheless, the foster home circuit is simply unnecessary in this case. Why burden the state and place the child with strangers, when there is a family he knows who will take him in?”

Craig sat quietly while this exchange took place. Mrs. Dayton resumed her seat beside him, perched on the edge of her chair. Mr. Ark inched closer to the judge’s table.

Judge Borowsky took off his glasses and swiveled his chair toward the window. No one said a word while the judge sat in deep concentration.

Craig lost his sense of time. He did not know if a second or an eternity passed while the judge decided his future.

Turning back around, the judge swiped his hand across his mouth. Craig saw him grimace. Or was it a smile he was trying to conceal? A grimace didn’t jibe with the twinkle in Judge Borowsky’s eyes. Replacing his glasses, the judge straightened his face and looked at Mr. Ark.

“I have tried to give a measure of thoughtful consideration to your proposal, Mr. Ark. And now that I think it over,” the judge was really smiling now, “this may be the perfect solution. Perfect for both issues. As I said earlier, the criminal charges will have to be taken against the father. But in the meantime, we can provide the boy with a good home and exact some recompense for the damage he has done. However, Mr. Ark,” continued the judge in a more business-like tone, “the boy is still the ward of the state. Even if he goes with you, the arrangements will have to be made by Mrs. Dayton.”

“I understand, Your Honor.” Mr. Ark nodded his head.

The judge turned from Mr. Ark and addressed Craig. “Craig, Mr. Ark is not going to hurt you, or punish you. I have known him since he was knee-high to a jack-rabbit, and he may be a little excitable, but he is an honorable man. His father and I were old fishing buddies. Now, he is offering you a good home. And I’m going to give you an opportunity to make amends for your poor behavior.”

Craig didn’t know if he was supposed to respond to the judge, so he waited to be prompted. He wondered what the judge meant by “amends.” Am I supposed to mend the tree?

Judge Borosky’s face took on a serious expression. “Craig, you have done a deplorable thing. I want you to consider what you have done. And I want you to be helpful to Mr. and Mrs. Ark. There’s nothing like hard work to straighten out confused thinking.”

So Craig was delivered from living with strangers, or worse, going to prison. But why should he let the judge see his relief? “Yes, sir,” he said, looking down at his hands. I’ll go for now; I’m so tired, I need a place to crash.

The judge addressed the social worker. “Mrs. Dayton, do you have anything to add to this settlement?”

“No, Your Honor,” she said, smiling. “It sounds like a plan to me. I’ll take care of the red tape, uh, that is, the paperwork.”

For once, Craig thought, she sounded sincerely pleased.

“Therefore, Craig,” Judge Borowsky said, “I hereby sentence you to live in a comfortable, loving home and be the caretaker of the Venerable Old Oak.”

The rest of the hearing passed quickly and in a haze for Craig. All of the adults seemed happy with his new arrangement. Mrs. Dayton said she would keep the court apprised of Craig’s progress. Deputy Boyle said the sheriff’s office would continue the search for Mr. Reeves; he didn’t think it would take long to find him. Immediate business being taken care of, the judge dismissed the group and Mrs. Dayton turned Craig over to Mr. Ark.

“Let’s go home now, Craig,” Mr. Ark said.



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Thursday, 03 October 2013
Craig is hurting. At thirteen his world has shattered into zillions of pieces and his own anger has turned him into a problem child...but compared to his dad...well, his father isn't dealing too well with the death of the center of their world, his beloved wife...Craig's mother.

Alcohol has always been a far too constant buddy for Craig's dad, but it's become a much too easy other world for him to slip into now that his pain is beyond his minimal control.

Regrettably, though, alcohol is never the answer to solving pain, physical or emotional...nor does it block our perceived guilt...if anything it magnifies it. Magnifying guilt and impotent self rage, especially when there's someone more vulnerable around to aim that rage at leads to all we hold dear with us spiraling into the abyss of major disaster.

Craig...beaten for the last time, and reeling from his own rage, acts out from the depths of his fury and pain...but ultimately his deed, as horrific as it is, thanks to the compassion and understanding of an amazing family, brings together a community...and healing.

This is one of the very best books I have ever read, no matter the genré, or age group concerning every aspect of loss, guilt, misguided rage, alcohol, and forgiveness.

FIVE STARS and an A-1 recommendation for all teachers to read this book and then factor it into your lesson plan. You will be glad you did.

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"I am not even sure where to begin with this one, so this might just be a bit of a ramble because there is soooo much in my head with both this book and these characters!!!  All i can say is  .. YOU HAVE TO READ IT!!"

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"...this book is perfect for the younger crowd. It gives them the fantasy of a fairytale, the elements of a mystery and just enough of a love story not to "gross them out""

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"This book has it all, love, action, tragedy, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi."
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"This book has so much to offer, I loved the characters so much & theres so much to offer in this new series, that waiting for us fans will be sheer torture to say the least."
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