Ben Watson has been shuffled from foster home to foster home since he was 5 years old. Seven homes in six years. He's gotten used to blanking folks out, leaving them behind, and waiting for the day when he can leave foster care forever. Now, at the age of 11, Ben's just arrived at home number eight. But he's finding it hard to blank out the Torgles, his new foster parents, and their house full of strays: the 7-year-old twins, Kate and Jango, and the baby, Grover G. Graham. Grover's just over a year old and always getting into trouble, but Ben can't help liking the little guy -- especially since Grover was abandoned by his teenage mother, just like Ben was. The only difference is that Grover's mother, Tracey, is still trying to get custody of her child. But Ben is convinced Tracey will abandon Grover again. So when he gets the chance to escape from the system, Ben takes it. And he takes Grover with him.
Gr 4-6-A toddler's unabashed adoration and the patience and wisdom of two unlikely foster parents spark the beginning of 11-year-old Ben's healing process in this story of a summer of growth and change. Ben doesn't have high expectations when he moves in with his eighth foster family, the Torgles. He fully intends, in fact, to keep his distance and merely bide his time until a better opportunity appears. Those intentions start to slip away the minute he finds a way to quiet baby Grover, and are helped to their demise by adults who treat him with genuine caring and respect. Friction between Ben and Tracey, Grover's teenaged mom who pays periodic visits to her son, along with the descriptions of daily life in a more-than-lively household that includes seven-year-old twins, keep the book moving. The very real pain of children whose parents have failed them is tempered by scenes in which Grover demands endless readings of Hop on Pop or experiences the "dropping" stage by flinging french fries from his high chair. The minor characters are exceptionally vivid, from Tracey, who named her baby after a Sesame Street character, to Lenora, a foster child who drops the name she has always been known by as an acknowledgment of her father's purposeful abandonment. Quattlebaum captures the essence of childhood when the family has unraveled, yet has peopled her world with survivors and infused it with hope. With a much greater focus on foster care than Paula Fox's Monkey Island (Orchard, 1991), this will fill a gap in most collections.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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April 06, 2003
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