Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies

Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies

4.8 6
by Jill Wolfson

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The new novel from Jill Wolfson--an exciting, fresh voice in middle-grade fiction

Whitney has been in so many foster homes that she can give a complete rundown on the most common varieties of foster parents--from the look-on-the-bright-side types to those unfortunate examples of pure evil. But one thing she doesn't know much about is trees. This means

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The new novel from Jill Wolfson--an exciting, fresh voice in middle-grade fiction

Whitney has been in so many foster homes that she can give a complete rundown on the most common varieties of foster parents--from the look-on-the-bright-side types to those unfortunate examples of pure evil. But one thing she doesn't know much about is trees. This means heading for Foster Home #12 (which is all the way at the top of the map of California, where there looks to be nothing but trees) has Whitney feeling a little nervous. She is pretty sure that the middle of nowhere is going to be just one more place where a hyper, loud-mouthed kid who is messy and small for her age won't be welcome for long.

Jill Wolfson has woven together the stories of an irrepressible foster child and a deeply divided small town with incredible humor and compassion.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sharon Oliver
Whitney, our foster child heroine, is on her way to foster home number twelve when we meet her. She is self-described as a, "superfunny, hyper, loudmouthed, messy, small-for-her-age foster kid," who believes firmly that home is a place that does not really exist for kids like her. She is on her way to a logging community in northern California, and the one thing she is sure of is that she does not know anything about trees. Whitney meets her new family—Mr. McCrary, who appears to spend most of his time in his bathrobe; Mrs. McCrary, who is very tense; and their son Striker. When Whitney gets to school she discovers that a rather large number of foster children live in the community, and she realizes that many are being taken in for the money. The town's logging business has been shut down because of environmental concerns and the town is slowly dying. Whitney finds herself drawn to the nearby woods and a giant redwood she calls "Big Momma." When the resumption of logging threatens Big Momma, Whitney discovers she may have more in common with Striker than she thinks, as she and the "fosters" band together in protest. The ending is totally predictable, but the ride there is fairly entertaining. Wolfson's novel feels like a cross between the old-fashioned foster-kid-finds-a-loving-home novel and the newly minted environmental genre led by Carl Hiaasen's Hoot. Whitney is a very likeable character, with a typical helping of false bravado mixed with a surprising level of self-knowledge. The combination makes her appealing enough to save what could have been an overly cliche novel.
VOYA - Angie Hammond
Sixth grader Whitney is heading out to her twelfth foster home-this time in the middle of nowhere. Born with a heart condition and ADHD, she knows that she is a handful and that this one will end up to be just one more place where other people belong. She just wishes that stupid feeling would not slip in at the worst possible moment-the one that makes her hope that this family will be the one "down on their knees, praying night and day about having a superfunny, hyper, loudmouthed, messy, small-for-her-age foster kid." Needing to squash that idea down before it gets out of hand, Whitney makes sure that she gets noticed on her own terms before anyone gets any ideas about who she is or what she needs. What she does not count on is a school where half the students are fosters in a broken-down town torn between the logging industry and the environmentalists. Finding a hidden nature girl under her city background, Whitney makes a stand for her beliefs and rallies the support of some surprising allies along the way. Written with humor and sensitivity, this book from the author of a 2005 Perfect Ten novel, What I Call Life (Henry Holt, 2005/VOYA December 2005), tackles issues from fitting in with family and friends to getting through school to making a difference in the community. There is no preaching here, just honest to goodness situational humor perfect for starting a discussion on environmental topics. It might just encourage youth to find ways to stand out while fitting in.
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
Quite a lot of YA fiction lately centers on the trials of foster children forced to live in strange and terrible families and adapt. This novel joins that sub-genre. Eleven-year-old Whitney is entering her 12th foster home and she is jaded. She's been abused and misused and doesn't plan to get emotionally involved with anyone at number 12. She's got her pet bug, a good mind, a lot of nerve, and a determination to run away. But, the people who live at the top of the map of California, in a lumber town in the middle of the redwood forests, are not interested in committing to her either. Numerous families have taken in foster kids to survive a financial crisis brought about by groups protecting a rare owl habitat. The townspeople are not so much unkind as they are beaten down. But now, Whitney is part of a group of fosters who must learn to live in a new culture that lives and dies by trees, yet where environmentalist is a dirty word. Of course, Whitney immediately falls in love with a tree she calls "Big Momma," and when limited logging returns to the area bringing a promise of prosperity, she has a larger cause to consider than herself. The narrator here is a brassy, sassy, likable, know-it-all kid who, in spite of her attitude, learns something new, and takes a stand. The novel also contains interesting information about ecological issues, suggests workable compromises, and is packed with freshly drawn characters.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Whitney thinks of home as "a place where other people belong." She's heading to "Foster Home #12" in Forest Glen, CA. Knowing that no one will want to keep a "superfunny, hyper, loudmouthed" kid, she reminds herself that the situation will be temporary. When she meets her foster family, she soon realizes that the McCrarys-and the entire lumber-based community-have suffered hard times due to an economic downturn and logging bans to protect habitat. Once again, she's the outsider, but not for long: she becomes a leader among the many other "fosters" in the school (mostly taken in for the monthly income); a caring science teacher encourages her interest in her new surroundings; and Striker, the McCrary's son, shows her that nature doesn't make mistakes and that everything has its place in the forest. When logging begins again in the town, the two bond together to save their favorite redwood, Big Momma. Whitney's first-person narrative is lively and humorous. She tends to approach and evaluate new ideas and situations with rapid-fire questions, and creatively reinvents idioms to say exactly what she means. The ending is a bit predictable, but the protagonist's spunky voice will engage readers. Fans of Patricia Reilly Giff's Pictures of Hollis Woods (Random, 2002) will appreciate Whitney's independence and plucky spirit.-Kelly Czarnecki, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg, NC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old Whitney, aka Termite, arrives at her 12th foster home, in remote Forest Glen, prepared for the worst. Termite soon discovers that foster children are a cottage industry in this logging town where layoffs have meant psychological as well as economic depression for the loggers. Termite might be the loudest of the band of fosters at Forest Glen Elementary, but she is by no means the most eccentric. From this ragtag band, Termite fashions a cohesive mutual support group and, with her foster brother as an unlikely ally, goes head to head with the newly re-hired loggers who want to cut down an aged redwood lovingly known as Big Momma. A sweet, spirited tale told with warmth and humor about a determined misfit who finds a home at last in a family and a community. (Fiction. 10-12)

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Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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10 - 13 Years

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Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies

By Jill Wolfson

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Copyright © 2006 Jill Wolfson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780805076707

OneLet's say you're a kid who's small for her age and some other kids who are way overgrown decide it would be the most hilarious thing in the world to shove the new kid in the house into the clothes dryer and slam it closed. I can tell you how to get out of that dryer by kicking and screaming bloody murder so that the foster mom with the bald spot on the top of her head rescues you in front of the entire snickering ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha house full of kids.I can also give you the complete rundown on the most common varieties of foster parents you're likely to run into. Like the look-on-the-bright-side ones who go on and on until your head is ready to explode like a potato in a microwave about how lucky you are that you weren't born a foster kid in 1846. Or the one Inicknamed Miss Satan because she was so evil, and I bet she's still alive because everyone knows you can't kill pure evil. Or the one who won't like you screaming bloody murder even when the family dog sticks its nose in your crotch and who says things like, "A little, bitty dog never hurt anyone."Oh yeah, well, what about the Demon Dog from Hell?Man-oh-man, I can tell you other things too. Important things you need for survival, not baby stuff.Like how to jump down from and then shimmy back up to a second-story window.And how to kick heart disease in the butt. Scary thought, right? But I have the scar right down the center of my chest to prove it.I can tell you how to slip some quote-unquote souvenirs from a foster home into your pocket without anyone noticing a thing missing.But there are a few things I don't know much about. I admit it. Trees are one. In the World of Whitney, that's just something I never needed to know, so why waste a bunch of words on it? In some places, the people have a hundred different words for something that's important to them. Like, in Alaska, the people have one word for wet snow--say, oogabloga--and a totally separate word for the big flaked kind of snow--like moogablogo.For me, one word for tree has always been good enough, and that word is tree. There are small trees and big trees, trees that stay green all year and trees where the leaves fall off. Those are called decidingus trees because they all decided to let their leaves fall off for the winter. And there was the tree that I used for sneaking out of my sixth foster home because they duct-taped my bedroom door shut to keep me from being a night howl. That means I like wandering around and making lots of noise after dark.That's about the whole sum total of it for trees and me.So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be heading to Foster Home #12, where there was bound to be some real tree nuttiness going on. How did I know this? I saw a map of California, and way at the top there was no big (big city) or even a medium-sized (medium-sized city). Where I was headed, the map was a blob of green with hardly any \\\\\\\ (roads). That meant trees, lots of them.On a Sunday morning, the social worker from way up north came all the way south to the Land of Concrete to pick me up from my old foster home and take me to the new one. I was in the back seat of her official Department of Children's Services car. My pet pill bug, Ike Eisenhower the Sixth, was curled up in some leavesin a mayonnaise jar on my lap. I was working through a supersize bag of sunflower seeds--crack--spitting the shells out the window and sizing up my future.Here's the way I saw it. There are two true, never-going-to-change facts of life for me. I'm going to die someday. And I am not going to last long in this new foster home. There's no getting around either one of them. Crack. Especially the second. Crack. No matter how things seem at first ... crack. No matter how much the people tell me they want me around ... crack ... I'm going to get under their skin like a bad heat rash. Like a rubber band growing tighter and tighter around their throats. Crack, crack, crack!"Can you stop it with those seeds?" the social worker blurted out."Nope," I said."It's been six hours and three hundred miles with that cracking.""I need to be doing something with my hands. You don't want to see me without anything to do with my hands.""Ugly, huh?""Very ugly."By this time, we were out of San Jose, past Oakland, past Sacramento, all the way to where there were no more buildings, where the sky was no longer blue like anormal California sky. It looked like chocolate chip ice cream melted and schmooshed together. I rolled down the window and felt something like a damp rag slap across my face. That was the air. I stuck out my head even farther, all the way to the neck."In, please," the social worker said."Can't hear you," I lied.I spotted a huge truck hauling logs that was coming at us from the opposite direction. I waved at the driver, then pulled down on a pretend cord, which everyone knows is the way to get a truck driver to sound the horn, unless the driver happens to be an old sourpuss, which this one was because all I could hear was wind banging on my eardrums. The truck got closer. I could see the driver's face now, and it wasn't smiling. It was screwed up, like I was a ghost."Get your head in!" the social worker was screaming. The driver blasted the horn, really blasted it. I cheered and waved. My ears were ringing. My eyes were tearing. Gravel was flying. Whoooo!"Are you out of your mind?" the social worker screeched.Man-oh-man, what was her problem? My nose didn't get knocked off or anything. She pulled to the side of the road, shut off the engine, and refused to drive any farther until I brought my head in and rolled up thewindow. "And lock the door," she ordered in a shaky voice.That was the only major excitement for a while. After that, it was just trees to the right, left, ahead, and behind. It was a jungle out there, only not an interesting jungle jungle with monkeys and tigers and vines to swing from. This was just a lot of trees. There was a sign that said SCENIC HIGHWAY, and I wondered, What kind of idiot do they think I am? Of course it's scenic when everything looks like a postcard. Only it wasn't my kind of postcard. I like the ones where they paste an antelope and a jackrabbit together so you think there's really such an animal as a jackalope. Which I did for a while. I mean, why wouldn't I?The social worker didn't take her eyes off the road, except to glance at me every ten seconds through the rearview mirror. "Girl with your kind of energy?" she said. "Good fresh air can work a miracle. This is where you belong, just the kind of home you need."Who was she kidding? In social worker language, what she really meant was "Whitney, you've already been thrown out of or run away from every foster home in the world of civilization. That's why I have to drive you here to the middle of nowhere."Home? I thought. One more place where other people belong, one more big, fat lie.Text copyright © 2006 by Jill Wolfson


Excerpted from Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies by Jill Wolfson Copyright © 2006 by Jill Wolfson. Excerpted by permission.
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