Cave Under the City

Harry Mazer, Author T.Y. Crowell Junior Books $13.95 (152p) ISBN 978-0-690-04557-4

Mazer's perfect dialogue and intimacy with New York's vast boroughs provide the foundation for another of his riveting novels. Tolley Holtz tells what happens during the Depression when his father leaves the family apartment in the Bronx to look for work in Baltimore. Later, when their mother has to be hospitalized, Tolley takes charge of his five-year-old brother Bubba, who refuses to go into an orphanage, as the authorities insist. Tolley and Bubba are starving and homeless until they find shelter in ""the cave,'' a cellar under a burned-out restaurant. The hourly perils and narrow escapes affect the reader intensely, particularly when the boys watch animals feeding at the zoo, when Tolley dreams about his mother's cooking, and when Bubba feels guilty because he eats bits of food that he knows Tolley has swiped. There is welcome humor punctuating the brothers' fight for survival in a story that stands out as a testament to love and endurance. (12-up)