Reeve McClain, Jr.--Junebug--has a dream of one day escaping the decrepit housing project in which he, little sister Tasha, and his mother are forced to live, a dream in which he's a ship's captain, sailing free. But he's a realist, too, and knows that when he turns ten in two weeks he'll be fair game for the drug dealers, gangs, and guns that are an integral part of the projects, so he launches a plan to help his dream come true. While Mama works at a nursing home, Aunt Jolita is supposed to watch out for Junebug and Tasha in exchange for room and board. But Jolita has a knack for doing the wrong thing; when she takes up with a man Mama doesn't like, the sisters' confrontation results in Mama's getting badly injured. Junebug copes first with the ambulance and then with taking care of himself and Tasha until his mother is released from the hospital. How he accomplishes this and still pulls off the birthday plan makes for an inspiring tale of a boy who refuses to let the harshness of his situation destroy all hope for a better future. Mead (Crossing the Starlight Bridge, 1994) has stores of affection for her wonderful characters. Readers will be rooting for Junebug and his dreams all the way.