Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Photojournalist Wolf (Beneath the Stone) follows a homeless family of six as they navigate New York City's social services programs in this obviously well-meaning but flawed book. The narrator, eight-year-old Mikey, describes an eventful nine-month period during which his family moves into temporary public housing. Wolf's camera follows the family everywhere-as they line up to receive food stamps and then go shopping for groceries, into meetings with social workers, to the dinner table and the playground. But although Mikey describes his fears of ending up ``living on the city streets,'' the basic issues are sidestepped. What does it mean for Mikey's family to be ``homeless'' when they occupy an apartment? Why do some families receive public assistance? Poverty is presented here more as an alternative lifestyle than as a social problem (when Mikey has to go to the emergency room, he reports that ``Mom has Medicaid, so we don't have to pay for doctors and stuff''). This blurry account is likelier to confuse readers than to elicit their compassion. Ages 7-up. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Mikey and his family are homeless, but life is not hopeless. They get help with a rent-free apartment, food stamps, and a public assistance check. Life in a fifth floor walk-up, the need to shop for all the family's food in one monthly trip, and adjusting to school are not easy. Sharon, his mother, works hard and is trying to better herself and her family. Mikey wants to grow up and go to college "to be somebody, somebody who really matters." At the end of this photo essay, one really hopes that he will succeed and the family will find a true "home."
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-5A hopeful story of an eight-year-old boy and his family. After a night in a shelter, Mikey, his mother, stepfather, two sisters, and brother are referred to the Henry Street Settlement Urban Family Center on New York City's Lower East Side, a clean, safe facility with individual apartments for each family. Through Mikey's first-person narrative and Wolf's full-color photographs, readers see the family go about their daily lives over the course of about a year. Mikey adjusts to school, makes friends, enjoys the summer, and ends the year and the book with a Christmas celebration at the Center, the family's first real Christmas in three years. This is a useful book for libraries seeking a more positive look at homeless families and the difference positive assistance can make in their lives. The photographs add a sense of reality to the text, and Mikey's optimistic personality is apparent.Mary Rinato Berman, New York Public Library
Wolf uses photographs to evoke sympathy for and explain the difficulties facing one particular homeless family caught up in New York City's welfare system. Eight-year-old Mikey, whose face appears in stark relief on the jacket photo, narrates the events, which begin as he and his mother, stepfather, and three younger siblings are given temporary shelter in the Henry Street Urban Family Center. The anxiety of knowing this apartment is only temporary seems to be reflected in many of the candid pictures (Mikey talks quietly about the dangerous and dispiriting circumstances of previous shelters), which follow the family as they use food stamps at the grocery store and Medicaid at the hospital and as Mikey eats free lunch at school and he and his siblings receive Christmas gifts from caseworkers. Wolf captures laughter and delight as Mikey plays with his friends but also shows the weariness and worry on Mikey's mother's face, a reflection, perhaps, of the burden she shoulders for the family's care. There is no "happy ending" to this story, but Wolf leaves readers with a sense of hope (Mikey's mother passes her GED) as well as a feeling that this homeless family isn't faceless after all. Pair this with Bunting's picture book "Fly Away Home" (1991) for a doubly strong sense of what it's like to be rootless.