Almost a Hero

John Neufeld, Author Atheneum Books $15 (147p) ISBN 978-0-689-31971-6
A class assignment has Ben, almost 13, spending his spring vacation at a day care center for homeless children near his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. After his first day there, Ben sees Batista, one of his young clients, in a local grocery store-being hurled, presumably by his stern mother, across the aisles. He reports the incident to the appropriate authorities, who begin to investigate. But when another youngster from the center is beaten and thrown to his death from a welfare hotel window, Ben and his friends decide to forego bureaucratic channels to save Batista from a similar fate, and they hatch a plot to kidnap the boy. Neufeld's (Lisa, Bright and Dark) novel, fairly bursting with good intentions, tends toward the pedantic in its discussion of societal ills and is almost completely driven by coincidence. At the same time that Ben works at the center, he is haunted by memories of his own, long-deceased younger brother, whose mysterious death was followed by the abrupt disappearance of their mother. Also joining the story is a quietly appealing classmate of Ben's who turns out to be homeless, too. The unlikely thicket of revelations unfortunately undermines the credibility of Neufeld's examinations of homelessness and abuse. Ages 8-12. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-689-80740-4
Prebound-Sewn - 147 pages - 978-0-606-10738-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-90379-0
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