ONE TRUE FRIEND by Joyce Hansen


Age Range: 8 - 12
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A semi-epistolary novel in which two friends help each other through hard times with a long-distance correspondence. Hansen brings back characters introduced in The Gift-Giver (1980) and Yellow Bird and Me (1986) to continue their stories. Amir, 14, an orphan whose family has been broken up, is adjusting to life in Syracuse with new foster parents, the Smiths, who have raised his little brother from the age of two. Meanwhile, Doris, 12, sends him news of his old Bronx neighborhood and writes of her friendship with a girl who she learns has a marijuana habit. The letters back and forth between the two children are buttressed by a more traditional third-person narrative of Amir’s activities in Syracuse, for the story is primarily his. It’s his quest to find his aunt and his other brothers and sisters to reunite his family, and his struggle to overcome the shame that clouds his memory of his parents’ last days. He is a genuinely sympathetic character, his loneliness and reluctance to trust this new set of foster parents being compounded by his little brother’s total attachment to the Smiths and his heartbreaking lack of memory of his birth family. In their correspondence, however, the kids come across as almost impossibly sweet; their letters have a few token grammatical errors but otherwise Amir and Doris express themselves with astonishing fluency and with a sort of forced naïveté that frequently falls flat. Nonetheless, it’s a good-hearted and honest treatment of kids’ feelings as they cope with their own separate challenges. The story can stand on its own; newcomers to the series, though, may want to go back to the earlier books to see how Amir and Doris’s friendship started. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-395-84983-7
Page count: 151pp
Publisher: Clarion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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