Dave at Night

Dave at Night

4.3 25
by Gail Carson Levine, Jason Harris

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When his father dies, Dave knows nothing will ever be the same—and he finds out he’s right when he lands in an orphanage in Harlem. The Hebrew Home for Boys is cold and strict, but Dave knows he’ll be okay. If it doesn’t work out, he’ll just find a better place to stay. But it’s not that simple.

Outside the gates of the

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When his father dies, Dave knows nothing will ever be the same—and he finds out he’s right when he lands in an orphanage in Harlem. The Hebrew Home for Boys is cold and strict, but Dave knows he’ll be okay. If it doesn’t work out, he’ll just find a better place to stay. But it’s not that simple.

Outside the gates of the orphanage, the nighttime streets of Harlem buzz with jazz musicians and swindlers, exclusive parties and mystifying strangers. Inside, another world unfolds, with rare friendships and bitter enemies. And somewhere in the middle Dave is determined to find a place that feels like home.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Touching, beautifully told.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a dramatic departure from her fairy tale fare, Levine (Ella Enchanted) creates a chiaroscuro effect as she contrasts the bleak days and colorful nights of Dave Caros, an orphan growing up amid the Harlem Renaissance. When his woodcarver father dies in October 1926, Dave's older brother, Gideon, goes to live with their Uncle Jack in Chicago, but none of Dave's relatives can afford to take him. Dave's stepmother places him at the Hebrew Home for Boys (nicknamed Hell Hole for Brats), and the 11-year-old vows to run away. But first he must retrieve his most prized possession, his father's carving of Noah's Ark, which was stolen by the superintendent Mr. Bloom (aka "Doom"), who is infamous for beating up boys. In the meantime, Dave finds a way to sneak off the grounds for the evening. Thus begins Dave's secret life, revealed through his first-person narrative. On his first night out, he meets Solly, a self-proclaimed "gonif" with a heart of gold, who uses Dave as a sidekick in his fortune-telling gigs. Solly introduces him to an avant-garde group of thinkers, painters, writers, musicians and Irma Lee, the young niece of a prominent African-American socialite. As Dave waits for the opportunity to reclaim his carving, he settles into his double life. His fellow "elevens" at the orphanage emerge as distinct, colorful personalities who come through for him time and again. Mr. Hillinger, the unwittingly hilarious art teacher who cannot complete a sentence, becomes a champion for Dave's artistic talents. And his nocturnal adventures lead to an abiding friendship with pretty and kind Irma Lee--as well as shed light on a fascinating corner of American history. In describing 1920s Harlem from a child's perspective, Levine articulates what it might have been like for anyone exposed to such innovation in art or the sounds of jazz for the first time: "It was wide-awake music, nothing like the waltzes Papa used to whistle. If I could have painted it, I would have used bright colors and short straight lines." This poignant and energetic novel, inspired by the author's father's childhood, comes with an all's-well-that-ends-well conclusion that brings a sense of belonging to Dave and his orphan friends, yet delivers a surprise as well. The Artful Dodger has met his match in Dave. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
In our Best Books citation, PW said, "The star of this coming-of-age story, set in an orphanage in the thick of the Harlem Renaissance, rivals the Artful Dodger." Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Dave at Night is like reading Oliver Twist set in New York, circa 1926 with orphaned Dave, a blend of Oliver and the Artful Dodger. Dave detests the Hebrew Home for Boys where he has been sent by his stepmother. He is determined to leave, but not before he has retrieved his father's woodcarving which has been stolen by the director Mr. Bloom, a.k.a. Doom, who beats boys who disobey. Willing to face the consequences, Dave sneaks out at night and is befriended by Solly, a fortune-teller with a heart of gold who introduces him to the great figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Dave's future depends on Solly, his Harlem friends and the boys in the home. The art teacher who encourages Dave to develop his talent is just one of the many quirky characters that enrich Dave's life.
KLIATT - Michele Winship
To quote the review of the audiobook in KLIATT, January 2001: After the funeral of Dave's adored father, his stepmother announces that she can't keep 11-year-old Dave or his brother Gideon. One of their uncles volunteers to take the calmer Gideon, but nobody can take Dave. It's New York City during the Depression and folks are barely getting by. That's how the irrepressible Dave ends up at the HHB (Hopeless House of Beggars, Hell Hole for Brats, or Hebrew Home for Boys). The man who runs the orphanage is cruel and Dave is determined to run away after he recovers the one memento he has from his father. Adventures ensue. When he ventures out of the HHB at night, Dave is befriended by Solly, a fortune teller who quickly becomes "Uncle Solly," and Irma, an African American girl who invites Dave to parties in Harlem. Levine explains at the end how the story of Dave and the orphanage was inspired by her father's childhood. This is a rollicking, heartwarming story about friendship, loyalty, cruelty, and hope. Highly recommended for "kids" of all ages.
Library Journal
Gr 5-9-By day, Dave is a downtrodden orphan at the Hebrew Home for Boys; at night he mingles with the movers and shakers of the Harlem Renaissance. His hardships and comic escapades create a fanciful tale of New York in the 1920s. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Dave's father dies, and his stepmother does not want to keep him. Suddenly this energetic young boy is an orphan, living in the Hebrew Home for Boys, also known as the Hell Hole for Brats. Dave quickly finds himself battling an abusive schoolmaster, making friends, outsmarting bullies, and spending his nights hobnobbing with the elite crowd of the Harlem Renaissance. Set in New York in 1926, Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, 1999) brings to life many people and places from the time. Narrator Jason Harris, host of Nickelodeon's Double Dare 2000, does an excellent job bringing various characters to life without missing a beat, from a journeyman Jazz player to a Yiddish spouting "gonif." As a bonus, Levine narrates her inspirations for this novel, including the story of her own father's life in a similar orphanage. A great addition to fiction or historical fiction collections.-Todd Dunkelberg, Descutes Public Library System, Bend, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
When his father dies, Dave finds himself placed in an orphanage (the cold and strict Hebrew Home for Boys in Harlem) far from the life he knew on the lower East Side of New York City. Outside the gates of the orphanage, Harlem is a world of jazz musicians and swindlers, exclusive parties and mystifying strangers. Inside the orphanage, Dave finds rare friendships and bitter enemies. Somewhere Dave must find a place that he can call home. Gail Levine is a talented author and Dave At Night is an original and riveting novel for young readers ages 8 to 12 and a highly recommended addition to school and community libraries.
Kirkus Reviews
Knowing only that her father grew up in an orphanage in New York on the edge of Harlem, Levine (Ella Enchanted, 1997) weaves a tale of an adventurous boy who stumbles into the world of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1926, orphanages were still cruel places, who took in children whose relatives refused to care for them. When Dave's father dies, an uncle takes in his brother Gideon, but no one will take him. He ends up in the Hebrew Home for Boys and quickly makes friend with most of the other boys, but angers the violent superintendent, Mr. Bloom (Mr. Doom, as the boys nickname him). Dave's one solace is to climb over the institution's wall at night, to sample the outside world. He's befriended by Solly, an elderly Jewish fortuneteller with a parrot; Solly takes him along to a rent party, where Dave meets Irma, an African-American girl who is his age. His new friends invite him to more parties, attended by some of the shakers and movers of the Harlem Renaissance. Eventually, Solly and Irma, with the help of Irma's influential mother, help Dave to overthrow the tyrannical Mr. Bloom, and improve the orphanage. Levine's writing is believable and personable; historical details ring true, especially the energy among African-Americans during the 1920s artistic flowering, and the particulars of Jewish and Yiddish culture. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

From the start, I've always made trouble. My mama died of complications from having me. I once joked about it to my older brother, Gideon. I said I could make trouble even before I was born. Gideon thought I was serious because he said, "You didn't do it on purpose, Dave. You were too young. You weren't even yourself yet."

No, I didn't do it on purpose, but probably I was fooling around in her belly, having a fine time, and I kicked or punched too hard, and one thing led to another, and she died.

I had nothing to do with Papa dying, though. He died on Tuesday, October 26, 1926, when he fell off the roof of a house he was helping to build.

About four years before he died, when I was seven, I got in trouble for smearing glue on the chair of Izzy, the class bully. My stepmother, Ida, had to go to P.S. 42 and promise the principal that I'd never smear glue on anybody's chair ever again. I never did, but Ida had to visit P.S. 42 often anyway. I batted a ball into our fourth-grade teacher's rear end (by accident'my aim wasn't that good). I fought with Izzy on the stairs. I let a mouse loose in our classroom. And more. Some things I didn't do but got blamed for because I'd done everything else.

Papa tried to be mad when I got into trouble. "You have to behave," he'd say.I'd say, "Yes, Papa."

"Ida can't do her work if she has to go to school because of you."

"I know." Ida made ladies' blouses on the sewing machine next to her and Papa's bed.

"This is the end of it, then. Yes?"

"Yes, Papa."

"Good." Then he always asked, "What happened?"

At the beginning of my story, he'd listen and frown, but then the frown would disappear and his shoulderswould start to shake. A little while later he'd be laughing and wiping tears from his eyes.

Papa was a woodworker. Before he came to the United States, he made a cabinet for the sultan of Turkey. The sultan was so pleased with the three hidden drawers Papa put into it that he gave Papa a gold medal.

Whenever he told about the medal, Papa would laugh. "We had to come to this country because of the sultan," he'd say. "I didn't want any more work from him. If he liked what you did, he gave you a medal. If he didn't like it . . ."

Papa would drag a finger across his throat. ". . . Too bad for you." He'd laugh some more and add, "When we came to New York City, I sold the medal and bought your mama a dress."

But this wasn't the real reason Papa came to the United States. The real reason was too serious for him to talk about, so he'd joke about his medal instead. The truth was that there had been a war, and Greece had taken over the city where he lived. Papa and his family, the Caros family, had sided with Turkey, and so they all moved here when Greece won.

The day Papa died, I was late getting home after school. Detention and then stickball. When I got there, Gideon was sitting on the steps outside our building. As soon as I saw him, I knew something was wrong. He was never out here. He was always upstairs or at the library, studying. When I got close enough, I saw he had been crying.

"What happened?"

"Papa . . ."

I ran into the building. Gideon followed me.

Papa was in the front room, lying on the couch where Gideon and I slept at night. He wasn't bleeding, but he didn't look right. He looked like Papa in a photograph, not like Papa. His face was too white, with gray shadows under his eyes and on his cheeks.


He didn't move. Ida stood at the window, looking out. She didn't turn when I came in. Mrs. Stern from across the hall stood next to her, patting her back.

"I hit a home run, Papa. We won the game." I nudged his shoulder. His arm swung off the edge of the couch. His fingers dangled a few inches above the floor.I knew he was dead then, but I said to Gideon, "Did Papa break his arm?" And then I said to Papa, "I'll make you laugh so it won't hurt." But I couldn't think of anything funny. Then I remembered an old joke. "What did the caterpillar say to the boa constrictor?"

"Dave . . ." Gideon said.

Mrs. Stern left Ida and started toward me. She was going to hug me and I didn't want her to.

"No. Listen. Papa wants to hear it. The caterpillar said, 'I don't want to be around when you turn into a butterfly.'" I laughed. "Do you get it, Papa?" I leaned down and said right into his ear, "Isn't it funny? Don't you get it?"

From where she stood, Ida said, "Don't you get it? He's dead."

Mrs. Stern turned me away from Papa and held me. I stood stiffly against her. Ida went on talking. "In six months we would have moved out of here. We almost had enough saved up."

I pulled away from Mrs. Stern and ran out of the house.

Gideon caught up with me after I'd gone a block. "Where are you going, Dave?"

I didn't answer him. I was heading for Seward Park to see if anyone was still playing stickball. When I got there, my friends were gone, but our stick was still lying on the ground. I found a ball under the Nash that was parked on Essex Street.

"I'll show you how I got the homer." I threw the ball in the air and swung at it. I missed. I swung again and missed. And again. And again. Once Gideon told me to stop, but I wouldn't. I kept swinging and missing. I started to cry."Why can't I hit it?" I said. "What's wrong with me?"

"You'll get it if you keep trying." Gideon was crying too.

"Why are you crying? You're not even trying to hit it." I laughed in the middle of crying. Then I connected. Crack.

Papa was dead.

The ball didn't go far. The stick, when I threw it with all my might, went farther and crashed into the brick wall outside the boys' toilet.

I crouched down and cried, really cried. I pictured Papa at breakfast, dipping bread into his coffee, the bread making his cheek bulge while he chewed. I pictured him before he left the house, trying to kiss Ida good-bye and her pushing him away. I pictured him tossing his hat in the air and positioning himself under it, so it landed square on his head. I pictured him saying good-bye to me and Gideon the way he always did. "Good-bye, genius" to Gideon. "Good-bye, rascal" to me.

And then he went out, back straight, looking taller than he really was. Looking happy, because Papa was always happy. And now he was dead. He wouldn't be happy about being dead.

I stopped thinking. I just kept yelling in my brain, "Papa," over and over. And crying.

Dave at Night. Copyright © by Gail Levine. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Gail Carson Levine has been writing all her life. Ella Enchanted, a Newbery Honor Book, was her first book for children and was made into a major motion picture. Dave at Night is an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults. Levine’s other books include The Wish, Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, and Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand. These titles are all available on audio from Listening Library. Gail, her husband, David, and their Airedale, Baxter, live in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. You can visit her online at www.gailcarsonlevinebooks.com.

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