Eric Walters’ Governor General award winning book, The King of Jam Sandwiches, captured me from the first page to the last. I do yoga on a regular basis so I’m aware usually aware of my breath. But it wasn’t until I took the odd break from reading this heart-breaking middle grade novel that I realized I was out of it.
It’s impossible not to root for Robbie, the 13-year-old main character. He earns the title The King of Jam Sandwiches because he always brings jam sandwiches for lunch. Not because there’s no other food in the house (spoiler alert). But because he doesn’t want to use up some of the food he does have.
Robbie lives in poverty with his dad who suffers from bipolar disorder. He’s got a good understanding of his dad’s condition and deals with it by doing everything at home, being perfect at school and having a back up plan in case everything goes wrong.
His difficult life is uprooted when Robbie’s put in charge of welcoming a new student, Harmony, to school. Harmony’s a bit over the top. Perhaps for good reason. She’s in a new foster home and her mom’s in rehab for addiction.
The two are opposites in many ways. But they become fast friends and for the first time, they each have someone to lean on. It sounds a bit cliché but Walters does a fantastic job of showing how difficult life is for these two and why they bond.
The ending felt a bit rushed but I was super relieved that Robbie would get the care he needed and Harmony would stay in her foster home. I also appreciated the post note because I really wanted the two of them to be okay. Walters ends with a note to educators, which explains what adults can do for kids in Robbie and Harmony’s situation based on his own experience.