cover image The Harmony Arms

The Harmony Arms

Ron Koertge. Joy Street Books, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-316-50104-0

Gabriel and his father, Summer--a children's book author--have left their quiet Midwestern hometown to spend the summer in Los Angeles. While Summer meets with the Hollywood bigshots who want to make his character Timothy the Otter a household name, Gabriel explores the city with his new friend Tess and makes the acquaintance of his relentlessly zany new neighbors. By summer's end Gabriel has embarked on his first romance and confronted death for the first time. In addition, the big city's freewheeling ambience has allowed him to put his father's often grating eccentricity into perspective--a remarkable achievement indeed. Here, as in his previous books ( The Arizona Kid ; Mariposa Blues ), Koertge brings a light touch to a handful of major issues. However, the abundance of flashy local color becomes overwhelming, distancing the reader from what could have been an affecting and truthful story. Koertge seems unable to decide whether he respects his characters or thinks they are just a bunch of crackpots. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)