Dear Jo: The story of losing Leah … and searching for hope by Christina Kilbourne

Maxine is a twelve year old girl and like most of the kids today longs to be part of the crowd and thinks that by having the internet, she will belong . The story opens with Maxine writing in a new diary, but not liking the heading “dear diary’ changes her entries to begin with “Dear Jo” , Jo being short for journal.  As the entries begin Maxine reveals how she continously pestered her parents to get the internet, but their constant refusal  eventually set her on a path to ‘chat’  in cyber space on Leah’s home computer.  At first the girls think this is totally harmless as long as they don’t reveal anything personal, but they eventually get caught up with their own fantasies and the line between reality and cyber friends begins to blur.  Each girl eventually drifts off into their own ‘boy’ friend on the internet and so secrets begin between the friends.  The connection that Maxine and Leah had at the on start disintegrates as their on-line relationships get stronger.  Tragedy strikes and Maxine’s guilt leads to self discrimination and depression. It is only when the police ask Maxine for help that she begins to feel that this is her way to help Leah.

I found this to be a very powerful book dealing with on-line relationships for kids…..something that can start out as a harmless prank,  can become an quickly develop into a  relationship that often has serious consequences. In our today’s society of easy access to technology, predators also have easy access to our youth and this book will certainly help make student , parent, and educator aware just how easy it is!

It is also includes Internet Safety Tips for youngsters and a section for Parents which were compiled with help from “Online Safety” at Oprah.com and “Safety Tips” . 

Reading Ability:   Junior; Intermediate

Genre: Realistic fiction; Internet predators; Courage

Theme: On line Safety; Loss; Depression; Grief

Who would like this book? A powerful read that would appeal to any student!

Curriculum connections:      Teacher’s Guide: http://www.lobsterpress.com/librairie/dear_jo_teachers_guide.pdf

Author’s website: http://www.christinakilbourne.com/
Oprah’s Safety: http://www2.oprah.com/presents/2005/predator/safety/safety_online.jhtml

Netsmartz: http://www.netsmartz.org/safety/safetytips.htm

Author Interview: http://charlotteaward.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/christina-kilbourne-interview/

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