WHERE'S HOME?

Hoping for a fresh start, a homeless teenager and his father head for San Francisco in this first novel from an author of picture books (The Sugaring-Off Party, p. 228, etc.). San Francisco is crowded with street people and short on employment. Admitted temporarily to a family shelter, Aaron spends his days aimlessly as his father tracks down odd jobs, sells his blood a pint at a time, and saves enough to buy a van. Off they go to the fields, becoming migrant laborers for a seasonuntil a climactic forest fire brings near-tragedy and a change of luck: a job offer from the local fire chief. London casts his story in short, easy chapters, doesn't go for shock value (all that Maria, a young woman Aaron meets, will say about her private life is that she makes her rent ``dancing. In one of thoseyou knowadults-only joints.''), and ties up loose ends neatly. The focus here is as much on the hostility of police and some members of the public as on the dangers and discomforts of homelessness. Topped by the predictable happy ending, this slides down rather easily, but Aaron's desperate wish for a home may spark a response in younger readers. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-86028-X

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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