All He Knew by Helen Frost

A novel in verse about a young deaf boy in the course of World War II, the sister who loves him, and the conscientious objector who facilitates him. Inspired by means of authentic activities.Henry has been deaf from an early age―he’s shrewd and aware of langauge, but by using age six, he has decided it’s not safe to speak to strangers. When the time comes for him to begin school, he’s labeled “unteachable.” Because his circle of relatives has very little money, his dad and mom and older sister, Molly, feel powerless to help him. Henry is sent to Riverview, a bleak institution where he’s misunderstood, underestimated, and harshly treated.Victor, a conscientious objector to World War II, is a part of a Civilian Public Service program presented as an opportunity to the draft. In 1942, he arrives at Riverview to serve as an attendant and speedy sees that Henry is some distance from unteachable―he is brave, clever, and once in a while mischievous. In Victor’s care, Henry begins to look how matters can alternate for the better. Heartbreaking and in the long run hopeful, Helen Frost’s All He Knew is stimulated through real events and offers sharp insight right into a little-known element of history.


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.


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