Title: The Boy Who Knew
Author: Corinna Turner
Publisher: Zephyr Publishing
Age Range: 10 and up.
This is an impressive book about a modern-day saint. Well, actually at the time of writing, Blessed Carlo Acutis is not yet a saint, but he has recently been beatified. Corinna Turner has written this book from the point of view of fourteen-year-old Daniel, who has just received a diagnosis of leukemia. The story then cleverly intertwines the experiences of Daniel with that of Blessed Carlo Acutis– an Italian boy who died of leukemia in 2006, aged only 15 years old.
Daniel is well drawn as a quiet boy trying to come to terms with an impossible diagnosis. While his parents succumb to anger and despair, Daniel seeks out support from his parish priest – who points Daniel in the direction of Blessed Carlo Acutis. Daniel must wait ten agonizing days for a prognosis – will his illness be fatal or not? He has just enough time to complete a novena to Blessed Carlo.
The novena to Blessed Carlo is a clever device that drives the story forward. Daniel learns something new about Carlo every day as he works his way through the novena. By meditating on Carlo and his life, Daniel begins to discover more about himself. Through a process of reflection and prayer, Daniel grows in spiritual awareness. As his physical health deteriorates, the spiritual stakes rise – it becomes increasingly imperative for Daniel to strengthen his faith and find spiritual comfort.
A quick journey to Assisi to witness the beatification of Carlo Acutis is a delightful twist in the story. The voice of Daniel within the story starts to change – as if Daniel and Carlo are becoming ‘one’. I really did enjoy this clever little book, which held my attention and kept me turning the pages until the end. And believe me, the ending is perfect.
I imagine that this book would be ideally suited as a class set for young people aged about 13 – 15. There is so much to discuss as a class – the ultimate meaning of life, how do we deal with/manage death in our society, what really matters in the end? There is also a great deal to learn from the example of Carlo Acutis, who devoted his last days to promoting miracles of the Eucharist.
I highly recommend this timely book which is available on Amazon here: as a book or ebook. Author, Corinna Turner is a British writer who has published books for the Catholic teen and young adult market. Corinna has been writing fiction since she was fourteen years old. She was raised in the Methodist tradition and later became a Catholic Christian. She is a Lay Dominican and works in the field of disabilities. Please support Corinna Turner and connect with her online:
- As mentioned above there is such scope to facilitate group/class discussions about “the big questions” – what the meaning of life is etc. I would probably use questions such as:
- Imagine someone has just months to live – what do you think they would do in those months?
- Write down a list of things you would want to do if you only had months to live
- Write a letter to Daniel. What do you think you need to write to him? What would he like to read in a letter?
- Think about the way Daniel’s parents behave in the book: why do you think they react to Daniel’s diagnosis like this?
- Can you think of any stories or quotes from the Bible that might give Daniel comfort?
- It would be interesting to revisit the story of Daniel in the Bible: what characteristics does Daniel in the Bible have? Is Daniel in this story like Daniel from the Bible: in what ways?
- Ask students to research Carlo on the internet:
Where did he live?
How old was he when he died?
What have you learnt about his family, his personality, his likes/dislikes, his interests?
What is “beatification”?
Research some of the Eucharistic miracles that Carlo Acutis documented.