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Children's LiteratureCan a book be judged by its cover? This one can—unappealing, dismal and twisted. What begins as a slow-paced account of four-year-old Rosita's journey to her new life with her mother in a prison camp in the cold, snowy north continues to drag on through her school days—filled with conniving, scheming children, her expulsion from school and her fugitive-like adventures. While science fiction fans may be a likely audience for this book, they, too, will wonder why Rosita (now known as Sloe) endures so much at the hands of her teachers, guards and other adults she meets along the way. The crime for which her mother was sent to prison camp?—being a scientist planning to "take action" on wild mammals. This is the secret "treasure" Sloe guards and defends as she makes her way to "the city where the sun always shines" and her hope of a new life for her and her animals. The obstacles she encounters and the ensuing resolutions seem far-fetched and too imaginative to be plausible, even in science fiction. Halam's presentation of a frozen, isolated future is quite disturbing, especially in our post-September 11 world of violence and teen suicide. 2005, Wendy Lamb Books, Ages 12 up.