Gr 5-7-A disappointing effort. Adam and Hector are discouraged about their club, the Angels, for its members lack a sense of purpose. Everything changes when the boys discover an abandoned shack in the park and decide to make it their clubhouse. Unfortunately, the Terrestrials have the same idea, and the Angels decide to have a ``war'' to settle ownership. At the height of the war, one of the Terrestrials appears with a rifle. When Adam jumps him, the gun goes off, killing the dog of an emotionally disabled veteran. The gangs disperse, and Adam and Hector apologize to the man. Later he offers them a picture of his pet, giving them the hope of forgiveness. The theme is a powerful one, but Levitin's story lacks depth. With the exception of Adam, the characters are flat caricatures. The Terrestrials are stereotypical bad guys, the Angels are wishy-washy braggarts, and Adam's parents are dysfunctional to say the least. Events seem contrived, unmotivated, and without consequence. Unlike Marion Bauer's On My Honor (Clarion, 1987), Levitin's book gives mixed messages and doesn't allow readers much opportunity to reflect on the seriousness of the situation. ``What had happened had simply happened, that was all.'' It's a scary way to explain a senseless act of violence to impressionable readers.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, Wheeler School, Providence, RI
Adam has always been told by his parents that he's a leader, but he's having trouble organizing and maintaining the interest of the three boys who've come together with him to form a club called the Angels. When he and his friend Hector find a ready-built clubhouse in the park, Adam is quick to realize that a meeting place might be just the unifying factor the group needs. Unfortunately, when the boys try to stake their claim, they find that the Terrestrials, a rival club, has taken over. A nasty scene ensues, with the Terrestrials throwing both rocks and insults to drive the Angels away. Chafing under the humiliation, Adam feels the burden of leadership as never before, and he determines not to give in or give up. Focusing on Adam, a thoughtful, basically nice kid, Levitin convincingly depicts children's glamorization of violence and their ready acceptance of it as a measure of strength and a means toward self-esteem. She's also honest about the way kids treat one another and about violence as a fascinating, powerful motivator that can overshadow all elseincluding good sense and plain, old-fashioned fear. Her graphic description of violence in naturein one striking scene, Hector demonstrates how his pet snake dispatches a mouse for its dinneradds another layer to this pungent, thought-provoking mix that's ideal for class discussion. The book will include illustrations by Vincent Nasta.