Although the news after a school shooting is devastating and continuous, the distressed lives of the child survivors can only be imagined, but in Rhiannon Navin’s Only Child, a six year old first grader tells you how it is. Some books need to be read, but Only Child on audible in the voice of Zach, the young hero who hides in the closet with his class while his ten year old brother becomes one of the victims, is one to be heard. The disconnect between the innocent young voice and this tale of senseless killing will bring you to the experience like reading alone could not. So, listen…
From the pop, pop, pop of the gun outside the classroom to the surprising identity of the shooter, Only Child reveals the crushing events, so often in the news lately. As Zach tries to understand what has happened, where his dead brother has gone, his mother’s erratic behavior and his father’s disconnect, he also remembers his brother, diagnosed with O.D.D. (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), as the hyperactive and bright older boy who bullied him, and more often ignored him. When he checks his brother’s bed daily to be sure he is really not there, and rebelliously moves into a corner of his brother’s walk-in closet, his quiet assertiveness and need for a return to order and peace is a counter to his family’s constant stress.
The horror of the killings and the aftermath is somehow increased by Zach’s sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor, sucking on the ear of a stuffed animal. With his calm voice, he tries to make sense of this new world around him, but it isn’t easy. His parents marriage falls apart in the collateral damage, as Zach’s mother creates a campaign against the shooter’s parents and Zach’s father’s infidelity is exposed. Zach escapes to his hideout to talk to his dead brother, but finds it harder and harder to cope.
This heart breaking tale is saved by the resilience of one little boy, who carefully and logically works to save himself and those he loves with hope and persistence.