The Chalk Box Kid
Clyde Robert Bulla, Thomas B. Allen
(Random House Childrens Books, Sept. 1, 1987)
Clyde Robert Bulla, best known for his engaging biographies for young people, has created a warm, satisfying early chapter book about finding hope in unexpected places. As the story opens, Gregory's father has lost his factory job, and the family is moving to a smaller house in a poorer part of town. At first, Gregory feels lost. The kids at his new school don't readily accept him, he has to share a bedroom with his 22-year-old uncle, and the new house doesn't have a yard where he can play. Then Gregory discovers the chalk factory — an old, burnt-out building nearby. Gregory goes exploring, and as he does, he finds plenty of chalk in the debris. With it he begins to draw flowers on the factory's blackened walls. As his garden grows and flourishes, Gregory finds a voice through his art, and his spirits begin to soar. Through a series of related events, his life and that of his family turns around, and Gregory, for the first time, finds his own place in the world. Readers will identify with Gregory's sense of loss — and with his joy at exploring a "secret" place and making it his own. His story should encourage budding artists, and is a wonderful opening for discussions of independence.