by Kat J.
As I was reading “Seeing Over the Side of the Boat,” a personal narrative written by Benjamin Halperin and illustrated by Kyle Trefny, I started to see myself in the author’s perspective—lost and confused in a broken home.
Written from Benjamin’s point of view, readers follow the thirteen-year-old author’s thoughts and emotions as he tries to understand his parents’ unexpected divorce. Starting off the story, Benjamin expresses confusion, a common emotion that families of divorced parents may initially experience. He says, “A few days ago I overheard them fighting over who gets to keep me. That is what I don’t understand. Why would one parent get to keep me?” Once his parents announce to him that they will be getting divorced, Benjamin starts to realize how the separation of his mom and dad will affect his life. He describes behaviors from his parents that have already started changing, such as “My dad came into my kitchen to get dinner started. Mom went to her friends for dinner and to stay the night. She was doing that more and more now.” Although he won’t always have his parents together with him, Benjamin is reminded that he will always have his love of baseball and the comfort of his golden retriever, Lucky.
I remember feeling the confusion and sadness Benjamin felt as I was trying to process my parents’ divorce a few years ago. Benjamin mentions, “It was the first time in what feels like forever that they finally agreed on something,” which is a thought I remember having when I was in his position. I would always think after the divorce, at least they won’t fight anymore. Even after years of living with parents that wouldn’t get along, divorce is not something that anyone can easily be ready for.
“Seeing Over the Side of the Boat” stood out to me because what the author was experiencing emotionally is very common, but isn’t quite publicly talked about as much as it needs to be. Is it wrong to feel lonely in this situation? Does this mean my parenst love me less now? I resonated with Benjamin as he reflected on these questions throughout his narrative, because I used to ask myself the same thing. With some of the details changed, the story could’ve been of my own experience—from the suspicions of distant behavior of his parents, to the realization that maybe they work better as parents when they’re not together. I would really encourage readers who may be going through a similar situation to read this and have something to relate to. Since it’s so easy to feel isolated in these life changes, it may also help to talk to others, like friends or loved ones.
The illustrator really captures the sense of companionship in his beautiful colored drawing. “I felt that she was the only one who cared about me anymore,” describes Benjamin’s relationship with Lucky, who stays by his side as his best friend. Although Benjamin and Lucky are lonely in the kitchen, at least they are each other’s loyal company. Both the story and the illustration capture the feeling of neglect well.
The only comment that was submitted under this story is a very important one and stuck to me: “So far I’ve read just one story, about divorce, and it seems that these stories may be for the grownups—messages from children to the people in their world, which is pretty messed up. I’ll be reading more and hoping to get my grandson interested and involved. Thank you!”, written by Miriam MacCarthy. As an adult, Miriam expresses that she gained insight about how children feel during a divorce, which is important for the parents to read. I appreciate this comment because not only can the story affect young readers, but also grownups. I’m glad that older readers are able to connect with the story by seeing through the perspective of the other side.
A literary magazine like Stone Soup allows readers to have access to children’s minds — minds that are full of endless questions, observations, and creativity regarding the world that is seen through their eyes. What I like about Stone Soup and about this story in particular is that it’s informative by bringing light to perspectives that us readers don’t realize or pay attention to. Think about a time where you felt like you were the only one going through an event or change in your life, when it seemed like no one around you understood how you felt. What would you want others to know? I encourage you to reach out to others by expressing how you feel in your writing or art, maybe someone out there feels the exact same way!
To read “Seeing Over the Side of the Boat” by Benjamin Halperin and Kyle Trefny, visit https://stonesoup.com/article/seeing-over-the-side-of-the-boat/
About the author: Kat is from Los Angeles, CA currently studying Art at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She enjoys photography and making paper collages.