Kid's Stuff -- Books About Homelessness
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"Fly Away Home"
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ronald Himler
(Clarion, 1991)

Yeesh. A truly depressing story about a homeless father-son duo who live inside an airport. Narrated from the boy's point of view, the text explains how they try to remain innocuous and unnoticable so that the airport security people don't throw them out. I suppose this is a good story if you want to explore the issue of homelessness with an older kid, but it's definitely a big downer, either way. (C)

"Spirit Of Hope"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Blackbird, 1993)

A rare dud for Graham. This books explores homelessness in kind of a weird, fairytale-like way, a form that didn't ring true for me... The Fairweathers, a humble family live in the shadow of a factory (where Dad works every day) when suddenly they are told they have to move so a new factory can be built where their house is standing. After a brief bout of homelessness (perhaps; the timeline gets fuzzy) they realize that while they have to leave the land, they can take their house with them (eminent domain must work differently in Australia...) and, with the help of many robust, working class friends, they jack the house up off its foundation, and turn it into a houseboat, out on the nearby harbor. Hmmm. Well, didn't work for me (I actually hid it from my kid, who loves Graham's other just didn't seem to be a very good narrative, too forced, too abstract, and not very satisfying, really.) Might be different for others, though. (C-)

"Charles Of The Wild"
Written by John & Ann Hassert
Illustrated by John & Ann Hassert
(Houghton Mifflin, 1997)

A charming fable about a little city dog whose overprotective owner won't let him out to play, or even to walk on the ground! Charles escapes and is found by a helpful homeless person, who takes him to the park, where he runs wild and free all day long, before the man takes him home. His owner realizes her mistake, and lets Charles romp from that day on, and as a result Charles becomes a happier, less "moody" little pooch. Love the artwork and text on this one -- the Hassert's hit just the right tone throughout. (B+)

"The Teddy Bear"
Written by David McPhail
Drawn by David McPhail
(Henry Holt, 2002)

This one doesn't work for me... Here, a privileged, middle-class child loses his teddy bear, and mourns its loss... Meanwhile the bear is rescued from the trash by a homeless person, who loves it and cares for it. Months later, the boy sees the two of them together, and tries to get his bear back, only to realize how much it means to the older man. Then he and the homeless guy strike up an unlikely friendship. While I appreciate the sentiment, and the attempt to inject social consciousness into the picturebook ouvre, the story rings false and is too preachy. I mean, look -- I live in Berkeley and I wouldn't encourage any small child to just randomly hang out with any of the hundreds of homeless people we have here. Some of them are really super-creepy or just plain out of it. Empathy and compassion is admirable, but the issue could have been addressed more honestly, or just more realistically. (C-)

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