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SHELTER by Christie Matheson


by Christie Matheson

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-593-37638-6
Publisher: Random House

What’s a typical day like for a child who lives in a homeless shelter in San Francisco?

Maya, 10, walks readers through hers. Mama has a job interview, so Maya rides the bus to school alone, leaving her breakfast—a banana—for her 2-year-old sister, Gabby, whom Mama, if hired, must bring to work. Maya knows Gabby, with severe food allergies, fusses when hungry. Ever since a distracted driver plowed into their dad’s bicycle, he’s been hospitalized, sedated, with a traumatic brain injury; he’ll undergo surgery today. Maya attends a private school (tuition-free—Mama used to teach there, before the accident changed everything) in the affluent neighborhood where her family once lived. Students volunteer at a food pantry; now Maya’s family depends on one. She’s hidden her situation from classmates, even friends, dreading its discovery by a bullying mean girl. Yet Maya knows her White family is lucky: They have their own room at the shelter; Mama’s employable; Dad, a freelance writer doing well before the accident, may do so again. But Matheson makes it clear that there are no guarantees. The home they rented was sold; skyrocketing rents put most housing beyond their means, as medical insurance premiums consumed their resources. Bright, self-conscious, and affectionate, Maya’s a credible and appealing tour guide to living on the edge in an American city with vast income inequality and a fragile, fraying social safety net.

Brings a pressing national crisis into clear focus for young readers; highly recommended.

(preface, author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)