cover image Songs from Home

Songs from Home

Joan Elizabeth Goodman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $10.95 (213pp) ISBN 978-0-15-203590-7

Eleven-year-old Anna and her father, Americans, are street musicians in Rome: they sing melancholy ``songs from home'' for tourists-then pass around the beret. The two have lived hand-to-mouth for many years, ever since Papa, for reasons that have never been clear, left the States with Anna after Anna's mother died. Anna is deeply attached to her father, but is weary of living in a succession of miserable pensions, concealing her shabby circumstances from her schoolmates and having to assume adult responsibilities. Through a supportive classmate who, like Anna, knows what it is like to lie out of shame, and through an American friend who has come to Rome in search of them, Anna finds the strength and the means to claim a home in the States-without her father. The author of many picture books, Goodman, in her first novel, perceptively conveys Anna's conflicting feelings. The prose, while in the third person, grows out of the unique perspective of a girl who has never really known childhood yet who has not lost her innocence. Anna is consistently likable, clever and smart, a poignant contrast to mercurial Papa. A few too many coincidences keep the tale from being entirely believable, but Goodman's wistful heroine and the dynamic setting are memorable. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)