Following Fake Man

Following Fake Man

4.1 8
by Barbara Ware Holmes

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Homer Aldrich Winthrop was a neurologist who died of a neurological illness. That’s all Homer Jr.’s mother will say about his father, who died when he was 2, and any prodding for details results in silence,
evasion, or sudden migraine headaches. So by age 12, Homer’s given up asking.

But on an unexpected trip to Maine, Homer finds himself…  See more details below


Homer Aldrich Winthrop was a neurologist who died of a neurological illness. That’s all Homer Jr.’s mother will say about his father, who died when he was 2, and any prodding for details results in silence,
evasion, or sudden migraine headaches. So by age 12, Homer’s given up asking.

But on an unexpected trip to Maine, Homer finds himself in a place where his father had lived. In this one coastal village there must be millions of facts about his father. Now Homer must face his biggest fear–maybe there’s a reason his father is such a secret. Maybe there are things he really doesn’t want to know.

Still, Maine gives him courage. There’s something about the people he meets and the breadth of the sky that convince Homer to search for the truth–to solve the mystery of his own life.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Twelve-year-old Homer specializes in sulking�which is not surprising, considering that his undemonstrative mother has sent him away to boarding school and won't ever talk with the boy about his dead father. But when mother and son go to Maine for the summer, the mother's reserve starts to crack, as do Homer's defenses against the world. While in Maine, a friendly local boy pulls Homer into a spying scheme that opens an unexpected window into the past. Homer experiences new friendships and freedom, and eventually starts to feel good about himself and his capabilities. The unusual inclusion of pages of funny artwork adds to the enjoyable story, which is ripe with humor and poignancy.
�Kathleen Odean

Publishers Weekly
A young artist yearns to know about his father, who died when he was a baby. "Using strong visual imagery, Holmes adroitly conveys the discord in a household haunted by the past," said PW. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Homer Winthrop doesn't know anything about his father except that he was a neurologist who died when Homer was a baby. All he knows about his mother is that she is remote, suffers from headaches, and is bitterly unhappy. Madeleine, the housekeeper, provides what love and parenting Homer has, but that doesn't fill the greater voids in his life. The three travel from Boston to a small town in Maine where Homer's mother secludes herself, and Homer finds his first real friend. Homer and Roger get caught up in the adventure of following someone they refer to as the Fake Man, someone who is obviously in disguise, who carries packages back and forth from their village to an island known for its artist community. Is the Fake Man a drug smuggler? This provides excitement for the two boys until they break into the man's cabin and find a sculpture with Homer's own name on it! What now? Since Homer himself draws all the time and sees everything he looks at with an artist's perception, he understands the genius of the sculpture and realizes it must be his father's work, the father whose name he shares. Could the Fake Man be Homer's father? Did Homer inherit his skill from his father? The answers are more complicated when they are revealed. The cover is intriguing, with a Maine coastal scene inside the silhouette of an otherwise hollow man—the father Homer seeks to know. The discussions of art, of psychological truths, and other demanding topics elevate this otherwise typical story of boys creating mysterious plots during their summer vacation for amusement. The place plays a major part of the story, so it is good that it is illustrated on the cover. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended forjunior high school students. 2001, Random House/Knopf, 224p, illus, $15.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Twelve-year-old Homer doesn't remember his father, who died when Homer was three. Since his mother, the stiff Dr. Winthrop, refuses to talk about anything connected to the past, he has learned to slam questions into his "suitcase brain" to squelch them. However, a summer trip to the family's former home in Maine brings the past rushing back to the present in unexpected ways. The memories drive Homer's mother to bed with another of her frequent migraines. Under the less-strict eye of Madeleine, the housekeeper, Homer is free to form his first real friendship. Roger, a local boy, quickly arouses Homer's curiosity when he reveals that he is following a man wearing a disguise whom he believes to be a smuggler. It soon becomes obvious that there is some connection between "Fake Man" and Homer's parents, and he follows the stranger with the hope of learning the truth. It turns out that the man is a famous artist who disguises himself merely to paint in peace, and that he was Homer's father's best friend. He provides the boy with the much-needed history of his past, and when the two of them confront Homer's mother, it appears that the Winthrops may be able to take the first steps toward building a future together. The strength of this book lies in the characters, and the real jewel is Madeleine, the housekeeper. Her homespun musings provide insight into the other characters and add humor to the story. A genuinely satisfying book about friendship and family.-Leigh Ann Jones, Staley Middle School, Frisco, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Random House Children's Books
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5 MB
Age Range:
10 Years

Read an Excerpt

This kid was nursed on a pickle," Madeleine liked to tell anyone who would listen.
Meaning me, of course, Homer Winthrop. "Nursed on a pickle and weaned on prune juice." She said it now, catching a look at my face in her rearview mirror.

Ha ha.

Well, so what? I enjoyed being a pickle. I enjoyed sulking and not talking. I planned to not talk all the way into Maine. But it was going to be hard, I saw as we crossed the bridge into the state. This place was already looking interesting. The river was named the Piscataqua, probably after Indians.

"Pis-CAT-aqua," I said accidentally. "Or PiscaTA-qua. Or, no, PIS-cat-aqua."

"Gesundheit," Madeleine answered.

Don't talk, I reminded myself. I closed my eyes.

"Homer, are you all right?" This was my mother speaking. She'd been spinning around in her seat to at me about once every twenty minutes since we'd left Boston.

I didn't answer, just opened my eyes very wide. I'd done this the whole trip, which was making my eyeballs feel kind of funny, like I might be doing them damage. I wasn't, of course. My mother would have said so if this were the case. She lived to say things like that. Now Madeleine (latest in our long line of housekeepers, drivers, general all-round-
slaves-to-my-mother) was different. When she caught me popping my eyeballs, she just popped hers right back. That was a sight worth seeing. Hers were so poppy you just sort of waited, thinking they'd bounce over the seat and into your lap.

My mother sighed. I closed my eyes again. We started and stopped and started and stopped and drove for a while and then stopped again.

"Lord have mercy," Madeleine said. "At least in Boston the traffic jams while it's still moving!"

"Oh, Madeleine, I believe that's a contradiction in terms."

And there you had it-the perfect example of what was wrong with my mother. Let
Madeleine say something perfectly clear and interesting, and along would come Dr.
Winthrop, the linguist, to pick it apart and take all the fun out of it. My mother heard words instead of what a person was saying. Why bother to talk? I wanted to tell
Madeleine, but that'd be like telling a boat not to float.

I opened my eyes and stared at the back of my mother's head: a circle with a bun in the middle, all perfect and neat. I stared at the boingy-haired triangle sticking out to the tips of her shoulders. A bird could be living in there. A twittery, fluttery bird. I believe those two heads told you all you needed to know. If I were drawing those heads, I'd —

"Oh my," my mother said suddenly. "Oh my, oh my." Her hand tapped away at her chest like one of those fluttery birds.

"Oh my what?" Madeleine asked. "You all right over there?"

My mother nodded, but her hand went on tapping. Madeleine shot her a look. I shot her a few myself. Not much fluttered my mother. In fact, nothing fluttered her except headaches, and those were more like a knockout punch

"Here's where we turn, Madeleine," she said suddenly, her voice sort of shaky and squeaky like I'd never heard it before. "We're on the peninsula. Herring Cove is right at the end of it." I studied the back of her head. A lock of hair had popped out of the bun,
and now her neck looked different. Ridges had appeared at the base of it. Something major was up. Something bigger than a vacation -something much bigger. Which I
should have known since my mother did not take vacations. Since my mother did not usually spin in her seat.

From the Hardcover edition.

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