I read this book as a child and decided to re-read before allowing my 8 year old to read it. I recommend it for the lessons it has about friendship and acceptance. However, I also recommend reading it with, or right before your child. There are foreign concepts, such as Vietnam and "peaceniks", which may need some explaining. More importantly, though, are the mature areas of the story that you may want to further discuss. In addition to death, the boy has romantic feelings about his teacher and a classmate is being physically abused by her father. When classmates and teachers learn about it, the actions aren't seen as very unusual and there is more concern about the girl feeling embarrassed about telling anyone. The book is from a different time, so many other things are different (like segregating girls and boys) so that should be kept in mind.