cover image Where's Home?

Where's Home?

Jonathan London. Viking Children's Books, $13.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86028-9

Prolific picture-book author London (Into This Night We Are Rising; The Owl Who Became the Moon) seems to be striving for grit, but he drenches this first novel in syrup. After Aaron's dad's business fails, father and son hitchhike their way from Detroit to San Francisco, girded only with Aaron's ""million-dollar 'magination"" and Dad's integrity (a Vietnam vet and formerly a coalminer from West Virginia, Dad is ""too stubborn"" to take welfare). Aaron narrates the story, thickly layering his account with at least one simile or metaphor per paragraph (""We were stuck, sun-bent, like great sunflowers wilting on the roadside""). They journey through encampments of homeless men, detention centers, shelters, tent cities, etc., before Dad finally lands a job and a home for the two of them. Along the way they meet other members of the deserving poor and Aaron gets to dance in the streets with a pretty Latina girl as he spouts his figures of speech. For all the surface social criticism (and even a reference to The Grapes of Wrath), this dulcet novel maintains a fairly traditional stance about personal responsibility: ""If you hang tough, you might get what you need,"" Aaron concludes. ""Maybe you've got to help luck happen. Maybe hope helps luck find you. Hope is the hook."" Ages 12-up. (Aug.)