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Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-86954-6
Publisher: Viking

 Theo, nine, has not had a gentle life. The joys of clean clothes, a warm bed, and enough to eat are elusive, and her too-young, borderline-abusive mother provides little emotional support or structure. Theo escapes via daydreams and voracious reading (``she remembered that the ugliest books in school libraries were often the best ones''). The heart of the book, set in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, is an awkwardly constructed fantasy sequence that places Theo in the center of a large and affectionate family, the Kaldors. When the dream ends, Theo finds the family--less idealized, with no answering memory of her--and also finds the ghost of the writer, who once lived in the Kaldor house, and who has an explanation for Theo's experiences ``awake and dreaming.'' While parts of the tale are clumsily drawn, Theo's longings are unmistakably clear, and the shaky shifts in point of view won't matter to readers, for this is a real page-turner. Pearson (The Lights Go On Again, 1994, etc.) has some lovely notions about the relationship between dreams and reality, the value of friends and family (however flawed its members), and the acts of reading and writing as talismans of hope. (Fiction. 8-12)