cover image Junglerama


Vicki Grove. Putnam Publishing Group, $14.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21624-4

The closing of the meat-packing factory where T.J.'s father works is but one more piece of bad news for the people in a small Missouri town. T.J.'s parents fight so much that his father finally leaves; T.J. tries to take care of his two small sisters while his mother retreats--permanently, it seems--to her bed. T.J.'s friends have family problems, too: Easy Jack's parents died when he was young, and he lives with his drunken uncle Judd, while Mike's father is barely scraping out a living. When Judd buys a broken-down trailer for the boys, they fix it, hoping to create a traveling animal show called Junglerama. Then T.J.'s sister Cassie disappears, and the townspeople put the blame on an old woman whose habits seem based in witchcraft. It takes all three boys to save her from the mob that gathers outside her home, and the tragic events that follow are the result of human, not ghostly, hands. Grove's second book (her first was Good-bye, My Wishing Star ) again addresses the difficulties of living in the depressed economy of the Midwest, but this is a far more complicated story than her earlier one. Spinning several story lines at once, Grove depicts the boys as teenagers who try not to flinch when they are suddenly faced with adult concerns, and proves herself a fine and able storyteller. Ages 10-up. (May)