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Children's LiteratureJunior Brown, a 300 pound eighth grader, plays the piano and has a vivid imagination. His best friend is Buddy Clark who has been homeless since the age of nine. They both hang out in the basement of their junior high school with a janitor, Mr. Pool. Neither has been to class for a semester, and yet they are able to slip in and out of school on a daily basis without anyone noticing. Right away the situation causes a massive suspension of disbelief. This middle grade novel originally published in 1971 shows its age. For instance, a middle-aged man hiding out with two twelve-year-olds in a school basement is cause for suspicion. Not only that, but the janitor does not seem concerned that both boys are missing out on an education. Instead he entertains them with an engine-powered solar system suspended from the ceiling, including a planet named after Junior Brown. Each of the characters in this book inhabits their own strange planets. Junior paints bizarre pictures and plays a piano which makes no sound; he also imagines he sees people who are not there. Buddy has been living on the streets for years and takes care of other homeless boys, housing them in an abandoned building. Mr. Poole who is supposed to be the boys' role model, is an ex-teacher who spends all his days with the boys thereby neglecting his work. Although Virginia Hamilton is a well-respected author and this book was a Newbery Honor, its characters, like the story, are unengaging and too weird to be likeable. 2006, Aladdin Paperbacks, Ages 8 to 12.