All of us have crosses to bear, those life challenges that seem so unfair, but others have had them too. This important gem of a book is a wonderful roadmap for those with challenges to share with their children. Sail away with David and Sharon as they seek adventure and treasure.
It takes much deft to take on two relentlessly unkind adult situations–cancer and alcoholic abuse, and leave the reader with a sense of poignancy and well-being (especially as the two main characters are 11 years old). Author J. Guenther achieves this by viewing these life-changing circumstances through the eyes of two wonderfully empathetic children, David and Sharon. It’s David’s mother that’s inflicted with cancer, and we witness first hand through word and deed the way this young lad processes this distressing development. Not perfectly, and that is the point. There is no ideal way to handle such a crisis, and the author is appropriately forgiving. There is no lecturing or sermonizing here.
Sharon’s “voice” is cleverly presented in her diary entries. Here she vividly expresses the destruction wrought on her family by her drunkard father. This appears to be bleak, but what’s inspiring about Silver Dream is the manner the two children handle the challenges of life. Inspired by books and gameplay, they imaginatively create an alternate world. With Pollyannaesque ardor the two friends succeed in channeling away their fraught experiences with a fanciful escape mechanism, a sail boat named the “Silver Dream.”
What I found especially wonderful was the way David and Sharon supported one another–they demonstrated the true meaning Empathy. And together they both found the strength to better cope. Inevitably Sharon took the lead, typically so as girls are more precocious than boys at that age. But there’s a moment when David assumes responsibility, and actively takes a step to resolve Sharon’s family crisis. The author writes this moment quietly, but it doesn’t take anything from the significance of the boy’s growing sense of responsibility. In the end we get to know David better, but it is Sharon that left this reader most intrigued.
Responsibly, the author leaves us with the message that it’s okay to escape from our worries through fanciful games, hobbies and interests (reading books being an important example); but “no man or child is an island” and it’s crucial to discuss one’s problems with others. Finally, I was completely vested in the authenticity of the characters and the plot. This is an important little book about some of life’s most difficult experiences, and should be shared by those wishing to gain a better understanding from a child’s point of view in an entertaining and engaging way.