Age Range: 8-12 years

Grade Level: 3-7

Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books

Copyright © 1995 by Barbara Park

Cover photo © 2006 by Michael Price/Veer




MICK HARTE is an example of Barbara Park’s great wisdom; she takes an awful outcome and creates a beautiful story about a fully dimensional 12 year-old boy.  It is difficult to start a novel with the death of a boy, a sibling, a friend….unless, he’s a prankster. Mick’s trouble-making ways get you laughing from the start.  His strong-will and propensity to tease kept me laughing, even though I was grieving right along with his polar-opposite sister, Phoebe.  It is not until Phoebe shares her frustration about losing something that will never be returned, that I truly felt the weight of Mick’s death, right in the gut.  But Barbara saved me, with utter wisdom, by suggesting that Phoebe, “Put him everywhere, why don’t you?”, just like God’s presence.

Barbara Park has aptly woven a story of past and present, through recollections of a boy’s relationship with his cowboy dog, Wocket; a mail carrier; a florist deliverer and a school assembly.  MICK HARTE WAS HERE will stick with me, like printed letters in cement.

KEM Sapphire

One of my favorite aspects of Barbara Park’s writing is her ability to observe, and then word those observations in such a way that each reader can relate. Even in harsh, unfamiliar territory, such as the painful, sudden loss of a young loved one, we have a companion in Park’s characters.

Having lost a dear friend at age 15, I experienced first-hand Phoebe Harte’s emotions and questions. Zoe Santos was also a reminder of the priceless sympathy of a best friend.

Phoebe’s story is not only helpful for young readers needing assurance that they’re not alone in their grief. Its insights are poignantly enlightening for those who have thus far remained unscathed by the death of a peer.

Favorite lines
Zo picked up on the first ring. “H’lo?”

I didn’t say anything. She knew it was me, though. Me and Zoe sort of have a psychic thing going, sometimes.


I nodded.

“You okay?” she asked.

I took a shaky breath. “No.”

She came right over.

KEM Diamond

When discussing favorite children’s books, my Black Sheep memoir friend, Davis, a drug addiction counselor, said his was the fictional middle grade novel, MICK HARTE WAS HERE. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the 1995 treasure was written by the author of the beloved JUNIE B. JONES series, recently deceased Barbara Park.

Park wrote this conversational story with such heart and humor, I’d swear narrator Phoebe Harte really was Park’s 13-year-old self. As a storyteller, Park knew and loved her audience. She tackled the complex subject of death candidly, yet compassionately, without being overdramatic or condescendingly romantic about the deceased person’s life. We felt Phoebe’s pain and we marveled in her hope. MICK HARTE WAS HERE is the perfect writer’s resource  on how to be real. I can see why it was Davis’ favorite.

Favorite lines
But I can still remember the exact conversation I had with Santa Claus when I was in kindergarten.

He said, “Ho ho ho.”

I said, “Your breath smells.”

And he said, “Get down.”



I don’t want to make you cry.
I just want to tell you about a story about Mick.
But I thought you should know right up front that he’s not here anymore.
I just thought that would be fair.

This recommendation is our tribute to Barbara Park who died of cancer November 15, 2013.

Please, share your MICK HARTE WAS HERE comments, too!

6 thoughts on “MICK HARTE WAS HERE

  1. A format change requires me to reapprove the following comments:
    Davis on February 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm said:
    Hi, my name is Davis Shryer, and it was I who recommended MICK HARTE WAS HERE to my good friend and co-conspirator, “Marras”. What a beautiful book this is. I read it to my daughter’s book group when she was in elementary school 10 years ago. It was a tad embarrassing when I shed a tear during the reading. My daughter: “Are you okay, Dad?”
    “Yes dear, just something in my eye…” I haven’t met anyone who didn’t rate this as one of their favorites. A tragic tale told with humor and wisdom. Thank you for nominating this wonderful story as a Gem. It truly is.

    • February 5, 2014 at 8:45 I replied:
      Thank you, Davis, for the recommendation. We all thoroughly enjoyed exploring this emotionally complex side of Barbara Park.
      Your daughter must fondly recall that poignant book reading–more than all of the rest. I know I’d have loved a moment like that with my father.
      Keep us posted concerning other guy-friendly titles. We want to keep our GEM selections balanced.

  2. Matt L on February 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm said:
    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so thoroughly mixes laughter with tears. It can be absolutely gut-wrenching and then have you laughing on the same page. Very appropriate given the subject-matter – mourning the loss of a sibling while also cherishing the memory.
    One of the tricks of writing first person is picking the right details. The details the writer picks can do wonders to reveal the characters. Just one example is where Phoebe is in friend Zoe’s room waiting for news of her brother. She describes the pile of food Zoe’s mom, Mrs. Santos, has brought into the room. You can’t help but picture Mrs. Santos herself struggling to cope. Without head-hopping, we see in that detail the friend’s parent’s emotional pain, which makes Phoebe’s own feelings all the more visceral. Then, Park pivots seamlessly from this pile of food to Henry the VIII’s gluttony to the time Mick dressed as Henry the VIII for Halloween, and she has us laughing despite ourselves.

    • On February 17, 2014 at 10:12 pm I replied:
      Matt, we’re honored to receive your insightful review. Your apt perception brought me back to places in the book I’d forgotten. I especially enjoyed your observation about Park’s attention to the right details, i.e., comfort food and Mick’s Henry the VIII. Thanks for helping us relive the journey with a new sense of awe.
      It tickles me that Davis recommended a title we all could get into. Maybe your daughter will collaborate with you on reviewing BINK & GOLLIE next month?

      • Matt L on February 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm said:

        My daughter’s a little young, but my son (4) might have some insight. We read BINK & GOLLIE a little while back. I thought it would be over his head, but he was very interested in it – he made me read the whole thing in one sitting.

        • On February 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm said:

          I forgot. Your daughter would just taste it.

          We’re trying to unlock the mysteries of children’s minds, so we’d love to hear your son’s take on BINK & GOLLIE. And, it’s a given that your insights are always appreciated.

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