Mick Harte Was Here. Barbara Park
PUBLISHER, 1995; Awarded 1998.
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old narrator Phoebe Harte reminisces about the life of her seventh-grade brother Mick who, we are told early on, dies when he is hit by a truck while riding his bicycle without wearing a helmet. After Mick dies, Phoebe spends hours alone, thinking about death, the hereafter, and the good times she has shared with her lovable, vibrant brother. So that Mick will not be forgotten, Phoebe recollects the most memorable parts of his short life, from his hilarious Halloween costumes to his practical jokes to his love for his dog Wocket. Phoebe remembers an incident when Mick and she are six and seven and write the word FART in the neighbor's fresh cement an act for which they are punished, even though Mick swears a wild monkey named Zippy is the culprit. Towards the end of the novel, as Phoebe leaves soccer practice, she notices wet cement near the bleachers. Finding a little stick, she explains, The stick was just the perfect size…small enough to do a neat job, but still strong enough to carve letters deep into the concrete so they would be there forever. That's what's so great about cement, you know. The forever part, I mean. And with that explanation, Phoebe bends down and writes in the fresh cement: “M-I-C-K H-A-R-T-E W-A-S H-E-R-E.”
Themes: Family, Sisters and brothers, Death, Grief, Bicycle safety, Humor
Discussion questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3
1. Describe Mick. What kind of kid was he?
2. Even though this is Mick's story, what are some important things you learn about Phoebe?
3. What advice do you think Mick would give to Phoebe about getting on with a life without Mick?
1. Write a letter to Phoebe sharing what you like best about Mick. Standard 3, Benchmark 2
2. Draw or construct a memento of Mick to give to Phoebe. Standard 5, Benchmark 3
3. To help readers respond to Phoebe's grief and her tribute to an unforgettable brother, have them write with a stick in cement their own words which will help them remember Mick. A one-inch deep Styrofoam meat tray filled with a quick-mix-water-only cement works well for this project. When the cement dries, remove it from the tray. On the back of the cement, glue paper on which each reader has written an explanation for the word/phrase he or she has chosen. While cement is a particularly fitting medium for this activity, students could instead write their words on gray construction paper and build a sidewalk with their Mick Harte tributes. Standard 3, Benchmark 4