A girl struggles to care for her mentally ill mother as they wander from town to town.
Leni’s mother clearly cannot cope with life, but although Leni’s grandfather gives them enough money to get by, he won’t take them in. They move whenever her mother gets the whim to go, a frequent occurrence. Leni hasn’t been to school for years, but she tries to learn on her own by going to libraries. After yet another move they land in a cheap hotel, where her mother spends her time sleeping and watching TV, relying on a hidden lottery ticket to put them on easy street. Leni meets Jake, a boy her own age, in the library. He invites her home to dinner, showing her his menagerie of animals. Finally her mother begins wandering outside at night, forcing Leni to call on Jake to help control her. As her mother’s behavior becomes ever more bizarre, Leni concedes that she needs long-term help after all. But can she even get in touch with her grandfather? Finally, fate intervenes. Peterson keeps this novella punchy and lean, catering to readers who need compelling, plot-driven stories. She portrays Leni as tough and savvy but still young and vulnerable, an appealing characterization.
An effective, quick, and involving story. (Fiction. 12-18)