In this luminous center grade novel, Michael L. Printz Honor writer Helen Frost mines family history to explore the little-recognized experiences of children in state-run psychiatric establishments in mid-20th-century America. Artistic and bright, Henry was born hearing however have become deaf after an contamination in early childhood. At first, Henry continues to talk to his loving older sister, Molly, in addition to to his parents, however the teasing and bullying of others soon silence him.
When his parents are looking for professional help, a college for the deaf deems Henry “unteachable,” and he is sent as a substitute to Riverview, a deplorable institution. There, Henry develops near friendships with two other boys; despite mistreatment, he manages to hold his compassionate nature and his humanity. Henry’s life changes for the better whilst, after the U.S. Enters World War II, a conscientious objector named Victor is assigned to Riverview.
Henry’s tale unfolds in plainspoken yet evocative third-person loose verse that brings the tale’s placing to life. For instance, whilst he arrives at Riverview, Henry reacts maximum strongly to its awful smell, a mixture that includes “some thing like potatoes / forgotten in a corner of the kitchen.” Victor’s part of the narrative consists of epistolary poems in sonnet shape that add context to Henry’s studies as well as to the time period. The dating that develops between Molly and Victor—also told through letters—is especially lovable as the two young humans paintings together to enhance Henry’s life.
Although Frost’s situation is weighty, she handles it with skilled sensitivity. All He Knew is a vast and poignant exploration of a hard second in American history and serves as a loving tribute to the young human beings whose experiences it brings to light.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Helen Frost shares her non-public connection to the story of All He Knew.