Dave at Night

( 23 )


When newly orphaned Dave is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys where he is treated cruelly, he sneaks out at night and is welcomed into the music-and-culture-filled world of the Harlem Renaissance.

When orphaned Dave is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys where he is treated cruelly, he sneaks out at night and is welcomed into the music- and culture-filled world of the Harlem Renaissance.

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Dave at Night

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When newly orphaned Dave is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys where he is treated cruelly, he sneaks out at night and is welcomed into the music-and-culture-filled world of the Harlem Renaissance.

When orphaned Dave is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys where he is treated cruelly, he sneaks out at night and is welcomed into the music- and culture-filled world of the Harlem Renaissance.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Touching, beautifully told.
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.
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.
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.
From The Critics
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

  • ISBN-13: 9780756941017
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Childrens Books
  • Publication date: 8/15/1998
  • Pages: 281
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 1.30 (w) x 1.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine is the author of the Newbery Honor Book Ella Enchanted; New York Times bestsellers Ever and Fairest; ALA Notable Book Dave At Night; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; the six Princess Tales books; the nonfiction book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly; and a companion to this picture book, Betsy Who Cried Wolf!

She lives with her husband, David, and their Airedale, Baxter, in the Hudson Valley of New York State, in a farmhouse that was built more than two hundred years ago.

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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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Reading Group Guide

About The Book:

In Dave at Night, Newbery Honor award–winning author Gail Carson Levine brilliantly describes in gritty detail an orphan's journey from loss to fulfillment. The year is 1926. Dave's beloved father is dead, and his stepmother doesn't want him. Only the HHB will take him in. Hebrew Home for Boys. Hell Hole for Brats. Dave is tough, a troublemaker. He can take care of himself. If he doesn't like the Home, he'll run away and find a better place. Only it's not that simple. . . . This stunning new novel by Newbery Honor award–winning author Gail Carson Levine takes Dave from the poverty of the Lower East Side of New York City to the misery of the Hebrew Home for Boys to the hope and magic of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. It tells a tale of terrible loss and hard-won gains, of cruel relations and kind strangers, of great poverty and great wealth. Most of all, though, it tells a tale about the power of friendship.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why do you think friendship is so important to Dave? Who are his true friends in the story? Why?

  2. Dave and the other eleven call each other "buddies." What does it mean to be a buddy? How is a buddy different from a brother? How is a buddy different from a friend?

  3. Many difficult things happen to Dave throughout the story: he becomes an orphan, he's separated from his brother, and he's bothered by bullies. How does Dave deal with each of these hardships? Overall, would you consider Dave at Night a sad story? Why or why not?

  4. Irma Lee doesn't go to school and spends most of hertime with her mother's friends at her late-night parties. Why do you think this is? How do you think her social situation affects her friendship with Dave?

  5. What's a gonif? According to Solly, is it good or bad to be one?

  6. Dave lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, while Irma Lee lives uptown in Harlem. What are these neighborhoods like? What kind of people live there? What kinds of people live in your neighborhood?

  7. "[The doctor] said I'd have the scar for a long time, maybe forever, which was good. I wanted a souvenir of the time I got the better of Mr. Doom." What is the scar from and why is it important for Dave to remember?

  8. Even though Dave's father has recently passed away, Dave writes him letters during study time at the Hebrew Home for Boys. Why do you think he does this? In what ways do these letters help Dave in his new situation?

  9. Dave is continually told that he should follow the rules and not be a troublemaker. What sorts of things happen when he breaks the rules? Are these good or bad things?

  10. When his father dies, Dave finds himself without a home. Where does he belong? Where does he find the most happiness?

About The Author:

Gail Carson Levine's first novel, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. Gail is also the author of the three books in the Princess Tales series: The Fairy's Mistake, The Princess Test, and Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, all retellings of popular fairy tales.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    When Dave’s father dies, Dave is separated from his brothe

    When Dave’s father dies, Dave is separated from his brother and sent to an orphanage. Dave finds a way to sneak over the wall of the orphanage and wanders the streets at night, where he meets many interesting characters (both high society and from his own social class). In his adventures at the orphanage and the streets, Dave learns a little bit about himself and what he needs in life, he grows to accept his problems and embrace his gifts. This is a sweet little book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Very different from most of Gail Carson Levine's books but still

    Very different from most of Gail Carson Levine's books but still amazing

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    Great book!!!!!

    This was a great book. I really enjoyed reading this book and I do recommend this to other people!

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  • Posted May 7, 2009

    Good independent reading book

    I would recommend this book for students grades 3-6. I liked it because it was suspenseful. My favorite part was when Dave ran away. It taught me about what it was like to live in an orphanage.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

    One of my favs!!

    While growing up, reading wasnt one of my favorite things but this was an AMAZING story that kept me interested. I loved it so much that I started to read it again a year or so after I read it...although I didnt finish it because I already knew the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2004

    the best book

    I think dave at night is a great book!!! i do not read very much but this book is so good i can't stop reading it. I think no kid should have to deal with a super like that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2004

    Most awesome!!!!!!!

    Dave at night is truly an awesome book! The characters are really believable!! The book shows how Dave struggles after his caring father dies and he ends up at the HHB (Hebrew Home for boys) with the meanest superindendent ever!!!!! But he has a beautiful friendship with his buddies. Solly (who has a yiddish talking parrot and is a gonif)and Irma lee become his night friends with whom he spends time in the streets of Harlem attending parties and listening to jazz musicians. I really couldn't stop reading!!!! I reccomend you to read it too!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2004

    a good book

    this book is one of the best book that i have read in a long time .i think that all children needs to read this book .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2004


    i wasnt that into the whole reading thing untill i found this book and i could not stop reading it. i read it till i fell alseep and it only took two days to read the whole thing. you will really become a part of this book you'll laugh cry and somehow relate to one of the great characters

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2003

    I loved this book

    I read this book because i love all the books that Gail Carsen Levine writes. It was much different then her other books, but it was just as good!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    good book

    this is a awsome book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2003

    An interesting topic

    I liked Dave at Night because Gail used many interesting Characters and plot that makes it so you can't put the book down. Dave at night was a book that I went through really fast.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2003

    A Parent's Point of View

    This is an interesting book in many ways. It is the story of Dave, what happens to him, and how he deals with the events in his life. On the surface, this book is a great adventure story with lots of pranks, friend and family squabbles, mean teachers, etc. I think that a few words of guidance will help the reader to get much more out of this book. The story of Dave shows how a kid who everybody thought was troublesome turns out to be a really strong, capable person. The author tells us what Dave is thinking and how he goes about solving his problems. It is interesting to see how he reacts and what he thinks when he has to leave his home to go to an orphanage. Also, it is good to see how he makes friends and outwits some bullies who are taking his food. As you read, look for strong things that Dave does and how he plans to make his life better. Dave¿s original home before he goes to the orphanage is on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The story takes place long ago when the area was filled with people who had just come to America from foreign countries. They lived in small apartments with many family members living together. Sometimes as many as eight people lived in two rooms (parents and six children). They had a good sense of neighborhood and frequently had relatives living a few streets away. So, by reading this book you can get an idea of what everyday life was like for a family living early in the last century on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In those days, when parents could not care for their children, they were sent to orphanages. Today, orphanages have been replaced by foster homes. When Dave goes to the orphanage, which is located in Harlem, another area of Manhattan, he gets to see what life in that area is like. People living in Harlem are mostly of African-American descent (background). The reader gets an idea of how caring/important people can change things in their community. There is a lot to enjoy and learn from reading Dave at Night.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2002

    This book has been the best!

    I enjoyed reading Dave at Night. I liked reading about rent parties - I never heard of them. I thought Irma Lee's and Dave's characters were the best. They were good friends. His other good friend was Solly the gonif. I didn't know what a gonif was. Solly had a parrot that would talk on his own; not just repeat what people say. Dave was an orphan. He lived in the Hebrew Home for Boys. Even though it was rough there he made good friends which he called 'buddies'. You'll have to read the book to find out more about Dave at Night!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2002


    I personally thought Dave At Night was a wonderfull book, I could not put it down! The book also tought some Yiddish. I would recomnd this book if you don't have another book that your cought up with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2002


    'Dave at Night' is a superior novel- one of the ultimate best for young adults. The words are refined and smooth; it seems as if it were a movie instead of a book. It tells the story of an orphan boy that struggles as a result of the death of his parents. None of his relatives were willing to take him. In the orphanage, his life becomes split between his orphan friends and sneaking out at night to be with New York's wealthiest (where he meets his crush). This novel captured my emotions and held my enthusiasm for a long time. It brought up issues as leaving friends behind and also funny scenes like the surprising thing that happened in the end to Mr. Doom, probably the meanest superintendent of an orphanage that I could think of. Mr. Doom certainly learned his lesson! Hehe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2002


    Dave at Night was a great book! Levine really captures your attention. The details and characters are excellent and it feels like you know and hate the villian and you know and love Dave's friends. I really recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2001

    Dave at Night

    This is a good book and i think that it is not sad at all. My 7th grade teacher made me read it, dumb teacher! As I was saying it is a pretty good book, I liked it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    Two Thumbs Up!

    Dave at Night is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. Gail Carson Levine really manages to capture your attention with a unique setting and fascinating characters. Her intricate details and way of making you feel as if you were there really makes this book excellent. Everything from the organization to Solly the 'fortune teller' is great. People like Irma Lee, Mr. 'Doom', and 'Daredevil Dave' really give a book character, and so does the whole atmosphere of the HHB (Hebrew Home for Boys). I for one have enjoyed this book thoroughly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    A Best Book

    Gail Carson Levine has done it again! The new title 'Dave at Night' has outstanding voice and interesting characters including a talking parrot. Geared from her dad's experiences in a orphanage, she writes about a young boy, Dave, and his adventures in the HHB(Hebrew Home for Boys). Readers of all ages will enjoy this wonderful book.

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