Aremis Slake is a poor, picked on, beaten-down, beat-up motherless child. When he's squeezed off the streets of his neighborhood by boys tougher than he, Slake takes refuge in a cavelike storage room that opens onto the subway tracks and, having reached the bottom, begins, for the first time, to build a life. Slake's strategems for sustaining life -- in his case there's not much to sustain -- are simple: he resells abandoned newspapers, earns daily breakfast at the luncheonette because he can ""sweep good,"" and furnishes his hole in the wall with the rewards of diligent scavanging. Unknown to Slake, his survival has a larger meaning: it gives subway motorman Willis Joe Whinny, who dreams as he drives that he is herding sheep in Australia, a chance to rejoin humanity by carrying a ragged Slake out of the subway tunnel. And Slake, by losing his first real home, finds a common bond with the rest of the world -- ""But was the soul of Aremis Slake in the tomb? Slake thought not. . . . Life everlasting, thought Slake as he fell asleep above ground."" Holman peers down at Slake with a kind of canny, reverential omniscience that will be perhaps more impressive to those who haven't read Vonnegut (and presumably at this age level there are still some who haven't). Comparisons aside, Slake's grubby litany, ""To run; to sweep; to see! What else!"" is still different enough to be bracing. All he needs is a chance -- what else?