I first heard about Jeremiah Lopper from his creator, author Joan Bauer. In the less-than-2-minute book trailer(Watch here.) , something about how Ms. Bauer spoke about the main character of Soar made me decide to start reading my way through the 2018 Texas Blue Bonnet Master List with her book.
Why I want to meet Jeremiah and be his friend, even if he is only eleven
I’ve met kids throughout my teaching career, that have lived through an enormity of challenging situations, more than I have EVER had to face in my forty six years on the planet. Facing these challenges has resulted in mixed results for each child I know, some go on, despite the visible and invisible scars that are left, some cannot bring themselves to trust, others go through life judging each next moment through the lens of what life has already painstakingly taught them. What do you say to any of these kids that is worth a cent? Even if I have lived through some of the situations these kids have braved through, it is never the exact same situation, the exact same outcome, and I am often at a loss for words that will not sound hollow or condescending.
What I have often wished for is a way to offer another spin on the situation. Jeremiah has gone through a lot. Jeremiah almost died. Jeremiah has the right to let abandonment issues cloud his everyday life. But Jeremiah finds the silver lining where most of us would not even believe there is a layer of anything remotely valuable. Jeremiah embodies what I heard Ava Duvernay and Oprah Winfrey share in an interview:
Jeremiah not only sees life this way, he also wants to help others live this way. I am reading Soar for the second time this week, and I cannot help but feel hopeful that others who read it, especially kids, can learn a little about how to face life, in spite of what has happened, like Jeremiah. That is why, when I walk the stacks with my readers, and they ask me for a recommendation, I have to, have to, tell them about Jer, about how I wish he was my friend, about how I wish I was more like him.
What Jeremiah and Soar have made me ponder
Jeremiah and his dad Walter, live baseball, Jer can’t play because of his heart condition, but that does not come between him and giving his all to the game. Sometimes I see kids so focused on wanting to be an athlete, and frankly for the most part, I don’t know if they have the skill or not. What I do know is that they live the game, whatever game it is: baseball, football, soccer, they live it! But, they only see themselves as players, that is the only way they know how to love the game. Jeremiah shows us how being part of the sport you love, maybe even making a career out of it, does not begin and end with being a player. That is something I would like my readers to understand, I want them to pin their hopes and dreams to this love they have for the game, in more than just one way.
The town Jeremiah and Walter move to temporarily, because of a job assignment, seems like heaven, made just for them! It is a town in love with baseball, but it is a town that is hit hard with tragedy because the need to win was taken to an extreme. In life, I’ve seen how when something wrong is done, we tend to shun the game, the celebration, the event, rather than the people who did the wrong. This is thoroughly explored in the story, and Jeremiah and his dad are crucial in focusing the disapproval where it belongs, and helping others do the same.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
The readers at my school know that the highest recommendation I can give a book is when I call my dad and beg him to read a book immediately, because I need to talk to someone about it (I wrote a post about my dad being my reading soulmate here). As you have guessed, my dad read Soar over night and we then discussed in detail everything we loved about Jeremiah, his dad Walter, and the other characters in the story. I hope that you find the time to get to know Jeremiah, and become his friend too.
I wish I could vote in the Texas Bluebonnet Awards but, alas!, it’s only for kid readers, although its probably just as well, I have read through almost the whole 20-book list and Soar by Joan Bauer and Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart are tied in first place in my heart! (I wrote a post about Some Kind of Courage here).