Readers influenced by Hollywood depictions of jailhouse violence and brutal inmates may broaden their view of penitentiary life after reading Hill's (Dancing at the Odinochka) quiet, insightful novel. Alaska native Deet is deeply shaken when his mother tells him that his overworked stepfather, Charley, who has been taking pills to keep himself awake, has been arrested for drug possession. Deet fears that when the news gets out, he and his two younger sisters will be teased at school. He is also concerned about what will happen to Charley: "Dad in there with horrible criminals, murderers. Gentle, cheerful Dad." Over time, however, Deet discovers that many of his worries are unwarranted. Instead of being taunted by acquaintances, he is consoled by classmates and neighbors, some of whom know what it's like to have a family member in jail. Deet also learns that the prison where his father serves time is not quite as dangerous and dismal as he had imagined. While visiting his father, Deet observes that other prisoners and their families are mostly ordinary people, "like anyone else you might see in the streets." Yet Hill does not sugarcoat the hardships that plague Deet's familyâ€”financial problems, added responsibilities, uncertainties about the future. Deet emerges as a sensitive, courageous protagonist who is smart enough and open-minded enough to look past people's mistakes. Ages 9-14. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
When the call comes, Deet's shock is almost palpable. His father, Charley, has been arrested for doing drugs. Sure, he only took something a buddy at the garage gave him to help him stay awake. Sure, he only needed to stay awake so he could work two jobs. None of that matters. In just one night, he's thrown in jail and the family's life is turned upside downmaybe none more so than Deet's. Deet is a boy who likes everything to be in its place, who doesn't like disorder, who is used to spending hours each night on his homework. Now, everything has changed. Without his dad's paycheck, Deet's mother has to get a waitressing job, and Deet finds himself with a whole mess of family responsibilities. He has to help care for his younger sisters, he has to learn to cook, and he has to help with housework. Hardest of all, when his mother's work schedule changes so that she is unable to visit Charley at jail during the week, Deet knows that he must. It is frightening to enter that cold cement building with its strange rules and watchful guards. But Deet adjusts to the new routine, and begins to see the other visitors and the prisoners they visit as people. In the process, Deet begins to make some surprising discoveries about his friends, his family, his father, and himself. Deet's growth, in Kirkpatrick Hill's sensitive hands, is slow, fragile, and honest. The story is an engaging and realistic account of something that affects many, many families.
VOYA - Kevin Beach
Deet's life is not so bad in Alaska. Although his family is poor and his father works two jobs, he and his younger sisters get along. His parents are a bit foolish with their money, but are loving and caring. Deet is smart and very organized and spends too much time perfecting his homework and criticizing his parent's decisions. Everything is turned upside down when Dad is arrested for possession of illegal drugs. Overnight Deet must help his mother make important decisions about legal assistance and childcare. He dreads school for fear of what everyone will think now that his father is a criminal. He soon discovers that the local jail is not so bad and that several "normal" families have a relative there. Deet regularly visits his father and makes friends with the other visitors. Seeing his father in handcuffs and a prison jumpsuit is traumatic for Deet, but he learns that life goes on and hopes that his father will be stronger when he is released. Deet becomes a better brother, learns to be more moderate with his schoolwork, and in turn is helped by a concerned teacher at school. His alienated grandparents re-enter his life to help his mother work through things. This story is told with great compassion. Hill, a popular juvenile author, does not shy away from the poignant scenes. It would be great recommended reading for teens in Deet's situation, illustrating how a strong role model makes the best of such a negative situation.
School Library Journal
High-schooler Deet is a good kid but feels alienated at his school in Fairbanks, AK, because his family has less money than his classmates. When his father is arrested for drug possession and sent to prison, his first thought is about what the kids at school will think of him. Reality sets in as life in Deet's family changes dramatically. His mother goes back to work and Deet spends every day after school with his dad. His view of prisons and prisoners begins to change when he learns people's stories. Deet's notebook entries for his English class give readers insight into the internal changes he is experiencing. The teen sees the bleakness of prison life but learns to see the positive effects of his father's incarceration. While the message that prisons aren't necessarily set up to rehabilitate criminals is not subtle, this a good story with a believable main character. The book wraps up a bit quickly with Deet's father's release to a halfway house, but is still satisfying as it doesn't tie things up too neatly.
Kristin AndersonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Deet's parents are happy-go-lucky and financially irresponsible, so he compensates by being compulsively organized and extremely judgmental. Early on, his dad is working a second job to help pay bills and gets arrested for possessing drugs to help him stay alert. Initially, Deet is utterly mortified and embarrassed. His mother gets a job and Deet realizes he has to go visit his dad in jail, a terrifying prospect. Many visits later, Deet undergoes a transformation. He learns not to be contemptuous of the prisoners-a number of schoolmates have relatives there-and he realizes that the most unexpected people can be the most thoughtful. Hill is an expressive writer who realistically conveys this boy's journey from superiority to kindness. She renders the criminals as real people, noting that illiteracy is at the root of many objectionable behaviors. Unfortunately, in a story where the whole tenet is not to judge a book by its cover, frequent snide remarks about overweight people seem out of place and cloud the moral. Still, this powerful character study, where everyone in Deet's family grows, shows that Hill has a gift for quietly but realistically portraying the journey. (Fiction. 9-14)