cover image Not Home

Not Home

Ann Grifalconi. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (136pp) ISBN 978-0-316-32905-7

Picture book author and illustrator Grifalconi (The Lion's Whiskers, reviewed above) displays her prowess in another genre with this heartrending novel. When their mother is hospitalized, Tommy and his younger brother, Dicky, must move into an inner-city group home. At once terrified and remarkably self-assured, Tommy is well aware that his is a heavy load: since his father was killed by a stray bullet in their drug-infested neighborhood, he has been, in his mother's words, ""the man of the house""; now he is given the task of watching out for Dicky in the threatening environment of ""The Home."" Propelled not by action but by Tommy's inner monologue and dialogue with his peers and the home's staff, this novel may be overly ponderous for the average middle-grade reader. Others may be put off by the gosh-golly quality of much of Tommy's first-person narration, which is studded with exclamation marks and fringed with an inconsistent dialect. But those drawn into Tommy's story will be moved by its emotionally charged, bittersweet conclusion. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)