WAITING FOR CHRISTOPHER

Louise Hawes, Author, Nina Nickles, Illustrator . Candlewick $15.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1371-6

Hawes (Rosey in the Present Tense) opens this affecting and honest novel with the loss of a baby brother, Christy, to SIDS, described from the point of view of a four-year-old girl. Feena, now 14, has recently moved from Connecticut to Florida with her divorced mother, a soap opera addict. The lonely, bookish Feena repeatedly witnesses the abuse of a toddler, also named Christopher, in the amusement park adjacent to her home. When the mother seemingly abandons the child, Feena takes him and secretly cares for him. As implausible as this story line may be, Hawes tells it with heart. Feena is a painfully believable character, as is her surprising new friend and co-conspirator, Raylene. Hawes's flowing prose and vivid characterization of the popular and seemingly unapproachable Raylene (she moves like an "African goddess" and "[speaks] sparingly in class, but with a tongue of fire in the halls") carry the novel to its complicated end. When Feena returns Christopher to his mother, it is only after confronting her own capacity for violence. Skillfully interweaving Raylene's story, Feena's past and present experiences, and their literary heroines, Hawes delivers a rewarding read. Ages 12-up. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/20/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Children's
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