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For fans of Rebecca Stead and Joan Bauer comes a scrappy, poignant, uplifting debut about family, friendship, and the importance of learning both how to offer help and how to accept it."A big-hearted...
For fans of Rebecca Stead and Joan Bauer comes a scrappy, poignant, uplifting debut about family, friendship, and the importance of learning both how to offer help and how to accept it."A big-hearted...
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  • For fans of Rebecca Stead and Joan Bauer comes a scrappy, poignant, uplifting debut about family, friendship, and the importance of learning both how to offer help and how to accept it.

    "A big-hearted novel with characters I wish were my friends in real life." —Gennifer Choldenko, author of the Al Capone at Alcatraz series

    Jeanne Ann is smart, stubborn, living in an orange van, and determined to find a permanent address before the start of seventh grade. Cal is awkward sensitive, living in a humongous house across the street, and determined to save her. Jeanne Ann wants Cal's help just about as much as she wants to live in a van.
    As the two form a tentative friendship that grows deeper over alternating chapters, they're buoyed by a cast of complex, oddball characters, who let them down, lift them up, and leave you cheering. Debut novelist Danielle Svetcov shines a light on a big problem without a ready answer, pulling it off with the perfect balance of humor, heartbreak, and hope.
    "Insightful [and] touching...Not to be missed." —Karen Cushman, author of The Midwife's Apprentice
    "You won't be able to put it down. Trust." —ScaryMommy.com
    "For readers of Dan Gemeinhart [and] Katherine Applegate." —The Children's Book Review
    "Relatable and beautifully told." —Commonsense Media
    "Pertinent....Honest...Uplifting...Fresh." PW
    "Utterly of this moment." —Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos
    "Absorbing and warmhearted." —Annie Barrows, author of the Ivy & Bean series
    "Realistically hopeful...Recommended."SLC
    "Sharp...Perceptive." —BCCB
    "Unforgettable." —Brightly

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    May 8

    Jeanne Ann

    I don't mind the nights. I stay at the library until it closes, which is ten o'clock on weekdays, eight on weekends. After, outside, it's mostly dark. I slouch on my bike seat and read by the light of the Food-Mart sign next door. Tonight it's Hatchet. I've read it a couple times. I like that one tool saves the kid's life in all these ways, and that his biggest threat is his weird mom, not the moose that charged him, or the bloodthirsty mosquitos, or the tornado. I think about this as I wait. Someone on the library staff stays with me out front till Mom shows. Mrs. Jablonsky made it a rule.

    Mom usually arrives out of breath, running from the L. I swear the ground shakes as she gets near, like an earth-moving machine. Her shift at the restaurant technically ends at nine on weekdays and seven on weekends, but since her boss is a poisonous Hydra in track pants who inherited the restaurant from his dad, Mom oversees everything, including the other cooks, most of them Hydras in training who leave for the night without shutting the walk-in fridge or noticing the meat order for the next day never arrived. Mom is always running somewhere to fix everything for someone who doesn't appreciate it "so I can get to you, kid," she reminds me.

    We walk the same twelve blocks home every night. Mom carries my bike on her wide shoulders and sort of tilts over me like the teapot in the song. My book rides in the front pocket of my overalls. It's nice on spring nights like this. We can take our time. The air smells like burnt toast. It's warm. If either of us has breaking news—a guy cooking oatmeal on a camp stove in the library bathroom (really happened), a customer at the restaurant stuffing an entire steak in her purse (really happened)—we share it. But usually we're quiet. That's because I feel like a squeezed-out sponge after a day of sixth grade and just as many hours at the library. And Mom feels way worse after a day at O'Hara's House of Fine Eats.

    It's nothing special, but I love this walk. If we stop on the way home, it's super fast, and almost always to look in the window of the travel agency at the foot of our apartment building. The store there has been vacant since somebody invented the Internet in 1990-something, Mom says, but no one ever took down the posters that are taped to the inside of the glass, facing out. There's one of the Eiffel Tower and one of the Taj Mahal. And one of the Golden Gate Bridge. They're all faded like everything else on this block, but Mom likes to tap the glass over the Golden Gate Bridge poster like she's got a plan. Which she does. I know she does. She just hasn't shared it with me yet.

    June 1

    Cal

    I can do this.

    I have to do this.

    Maybe I should've asked to do this.

    Just climb, I tell myself.

    The bricks are easy once I find the handholds. The wall is only about six feet high. I've studied it for two weeks, after school. The tree growing out of the sidewalk on the street side boosts me past the three-foot mark. Thank you, tree. The harder part is climbing with the paint cans. I need to get up and over quick to not be seen, but the cans in my backpack are like carrying another person.

    At the top, I know I'll have to jump.

    I pull myself up. Look down. Tug at the knot of my bow tie. I imagine the sound of bones breaking and then someone drawing the outline around my dead, twelve-year-old body.

    Then I hug the backpack, open my eyes, and leap.

    I wish I didn't have to do this alone.

    That thought slips in uninvited as I fall, air whooshing past me—seaweed, sour milk, pine needles—what a San...

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2019
    Two white preteens--one nearly homeless, one affluent--connect in San Francisco. Abruptly quitting her Chicago restaurant job, Jeanne Ann's single mom, Joyce, drove the van they now live in to California and parked among the line of vans blocking ocean views for affluent residents, including Cal and his single mom, Lizzie, owner of a trendy vegetarian restaurant. With her prison record and refusal to compromise career goals, Joyce can't find work. When money runs out, Jeanne Ann sells her beloved books. Hunger sets in; the public restroom's cold-water tap serves for bathing. Meanwhile, socially awkward Cal pays a price for painting an unauthorized mural at his private school: working at his mom's restaurant and attending public school. A neighbor, aware that Cal sketches the van dwellers and feeds their meters--helps him slip Jeanne Ann snacks and money. A wary friendship grows. Joyce takes a dishwashing job, Lizzie's chef takes an interest in Jeanne Ann, and some mansion dwellers plot to evict the van-dwellers. Though Jeanne Ann's description of food insecurity is haunting, the rambling, far-fetched plot often resembles a clever, extended elevator pitch. Despite manifestly good intentions, little light is shed on income inequality; events are too unlikely, characters too exceptional for readers to recognize or identify with. While "good" adults are interchangeable paragons of quirky wisdom, grumpy-but-interesting Joyce remains frustratingly underdeveloped. Intermittently intriguing, this overlong, high-concept debut mostly plods. (Fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 25, 2019
    Svetcov’s pertinent debut is alternately narrated by two introspective 12-year-olds living radically different lives near San Francisco. Cal and his mother, a successful restaurateur, live in a giant glass “Rubik’s Cube” house overlooking both the Golden Gate Bridge and a row of illegally parked vans. One of those vans belongs to book-obsessed Jeanne Ann and her mother, who journeyed west from Chicago after Jeanne Ann’s mom quit her job as a cook. As the summer progresses, the girl is increasingly concerned that their stuffy orange van has become their new home indefinitely. When Cal knocks on the van to warn of an impending parking ticket, a strained friendship is launched. But despite Jeanne Ann’s myriad difficulties living without an address, she rebukes Cal’s persistent attempts to “rescue” her. She offers honest insight into today’s affordable housing crisis—her independence and keen observations (“Hunger is like a rug burn on the inside”) are communicated frankly. Though the alternating narratives can bog down a lengthy story that feels primarily like Jeanne Ann’s, uplifting final pages and the awkwardly cautious cementing of an unlikely friendship offer a fresh look to an ongoing social issue. Ages 10–14. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Rostan.

  • School Library Journal

    January 17, 2020

    Gr 4-7-It is the summer between sixth and seventh grade when Jeanne Ann's mom spends their savings on an orange van and drives them from Chicago to San Francisco, chasing a job as a cook. But when they get there, they learn the job doesn't exist, so they park on the marina and the van becomes their home. In the beautiful house across the street from their parking spot, 12-year-old Cal's privileged life seems a world away. But well-intentioned Cal, haunted by his failure to help another neighbor experiencing homelessness, is determined to bridge the distance between him and Jeanne Ann. His efforts to befriend prickly, defensive Jeanne Ann proceed in fits and starts as Cal helps her in ways that feel right to him, without fully understanding her circumstances. When the city's aggressive parking enforcement and the Marina Beautification Committee come after the row of parked vans and the community their residents have formed, Cal knows he must help Jeanne Ann-but if Jeanne Ann doesn't want his help? Told in alternating perspectives, this tale offers a timely look at homelessness in California and depicts an unusually complex friendship, but also stumbles significantly along the way. Jeanne Ann's anxiety, confusion, and anger are visceral, but the motivations of other characters are less well developed, particularly the adults experiencing homelessness. Limited information about Jeanne Ann's mother makes her seem irresponsible and erratic for much of the book, and another major character's voluntary homelessness is inadequately explained. Cal's well-intentioned overtures often feel patronizing, and the ending is implausibly optimistic. VERDICT Not recommended for most collections.-Elizabeth Giles, Lubuto Library Partners, Zambia

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2019
    Grades 5-8 Initially, 12-year-old Jeanne Ann is excited about road-tripping with her mom from Chicago to San Francisco; however, this is no vacation. Her mother has poured everything they have into this trip, including purchasing an orange van, Carrot, all in the hopes of becoming a chef in California. But not having a job lined up means the pair has no money for food or a place to stay, so Carrot becomes their new home (illegally parked with other homeless individuals near the Golden Gate Bridge), and boredom Jeanne Ann's new companion. Across the street, Cal faces his own issues: he has no friends and is forced to work in his mother's restaurant for the summer, punishment for painting an unauthorized mural at school. Cal watches Jeanne Ann, eventually striking up a friendship with her. In this first novel, Svetcov explores homelessness without it feeling purposeful. Her characters develop gradually, gaining strength in the process. She presents San Francisco as the dichotomy it is?beautiful and expensive, but with its share of societal issues. Quiet, yet absorbing.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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