The stories and poems of actual homeless children--including fourteen-year-old Kareem, who lives in a city shelter -- depict the reality of homelessness in America, illustrating what it means to be deprived of the things most people take for granted.
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Robert Coles's incisive foreword heralds much of the feeling evoked here: shock, anger, disgust. Concentrating mostly on N.Y.C. (which has the largest need and the largest program for families), free-lancer Berck presents the results of 30+ interviews with children in highly effective sound-bites. Articulate, heartfelt first-person narration alternates with statistics, occasional poems created in workshops for the homeless, and historical overview: Riis, gentrification, the Depression; ``safety nets'' that may not work; reasons for homelessness that most readers without direct contact won't have imagined; and desperate measures taken to avoid it (11 people squashing together in two rooms). Of the ``accommodations'' provided--hotels (a 15th-story walk-up; blood on the sheets), barracks (arbitrary lights-out)--all are horrifying; with social services offered, family-style shelters, even with their oppressively strict rules, present the most hope. Infuriating facts (federal laws that prohibit the exorbitant sums spent on hotels from going instead to permanent housing) punctuate the outrage of such aptly titled chapters as ``School on the Fly,'' in which a teen travels an hour to take siblings to their school before going to his own. Sections on health or ``Dreams and Visions'' make painfully clear how quickly despair sets in. In the words of one youngster, ``Children live/ In darkness and with secrets/ When wanting to talk,/ Sometimes they're speechless.'' A powerful plea that deserves a hearing. Notes; adult-oriented bibliography. Photos not seen. (Nonfiction. 10+) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From School Library Journal:
Grade 5 Up-- The foreword of this volume puts forth a strong indictment of the society that allows so many of its youngsters to be without a secure place to call home. The body of the book further develops this theme. Over 30 homeless children in New York City, ages 9 to 18, were interviewed; their comments are interspersed with a third-person narrative into which Berck has incorporated quite a few facts and figures. Citations are in the back notes; sources are primarily from the late 1980s, but include some as recent as 1991, making this useful for reports. The chapters deal with why and how children become homeless, the three major types of temporary housing , stress, and the impact of homelessness on children's education and self-identity. The simplicity of the writing style makes this accessible to the intermediate grades; however, many difficult terms are used without definition (consumer price index, evicted, bureaucratic, etc.). While some of the black-and-white photographs are clear, others are so small or so poorly reproduced that the impact is lost. Almost all of them feature black children. Berck's approach is one-sided in that she never blames the adults responsible for these children; government and society are the sole culprits. Readers will close the book with fear, revulsion, and perhaps guilt, as they consider the degradation, discomfort, shame, and danger that is part of these young Americans' lives. --Rosie Peasley, Empire Union School District, Modesto, CA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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