Listen up, Fish." Harry Sue tells her story in "joint jive" she's learned from her quadriplegic best friend's home health aide, an ex-con. She plans to be fluent in "Conglish" ("a combination of joint jive and English," explains the opening glossary) by the time she completes a crime spree that'll land her in prison alongside her drug-dealing mother. Mary Bell went to the slammer seven years earlier, leaving Harry Sue in the care of her racist paternal grandmother. Granny runs a day care for "crumb snatchers," as Harry Sue calls them, a place that's about as loving and reputable as the group home Luther oversees for his mother in Christopher Paul Curtis's Bucking the Sarge. Both books also share Michigan settings and over-the-top, overstuffed plots, in which hilarity goes a long way to offset implausibility. Like Luther, Harry Sue, at 11, is a bit too competent to be believed. When she reads aloud to quadriplegic Homer, it's Kafka. The prison metaphor applies not only to Granny's abode ("You see, Granny and I were locked in a war for control of the joint"), but also to Homer's tree house, which is accessible to others only by a rope. Stauffacher (Donuthead) juggles many balls in this lengthy, ambitious but briskly paced novel (another subplot involves a Sudanese substitute art teacher who was one of Africa's Lost Boys), and it's a measure of her skill that she very nearly succeeds in keeping them all in the air. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
It is not unusual for an eleven-year-old to want to be just like her parents, and Harry Sue Clotkin is no exception. But Harry Sue's life ambition is a bit different. In order to follow in her parents' footsteps, Harry Sue must get herself thrown in the slammer. But unfortunately, try as she might, she just cannot seem to get it right. Her best-laid crime plans keep backfiring. Take that annoying Violet Chump, for instance. Instead of exacting her revenge on Violet, Harry Sue ends up saving her life and becoming an eleven-year-old hero. Kids will love the quirky cast of characters, including Harry Sue; her bizarre Granny; Homer, her paralyzed, tree-house-dwelling best friend (whose real name is Christopher); a substitute teacher unlike any other teacher Harry Sue has ever know; a nutty home health care worker; and a cast of crumb snatchers from Granny's daycare. This funny, yet touching story will tug at your heart strings as it tackles some tough issues including child neglect, racism, and parental incarceration. Like Dorothy in her favorite book, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Sue, on her quest to be reunited with her incarcerated mother, discovers that there really is no place like home. And sometimes, home is not where you thought it would be at all. 2005, Alfred A. Knopf, and Ages 9 to 12.
Gr 4-8-Harry Sue, 11, feels as though she's been doing time for the past seven years, since her father threw her out of a window in a drunken rage and both of her parents went to prison. She has tried to keep her focus on becoming a convict herself, with the hope that she will be reunited with her mother someday. Unfortunately for Harry Sue, she has a heart, and it is not the cold heart of a criminal. Consigned to the custody of her paternal grandmother, who runs a disturbingly bad child-care center, Harry Sue has her hands full, keeping the children at Granny's Lap from harm, going to school, and spending as much time as she can with her best friend, a quadriplegic with an inventive mind whom she has nicknamed Homer Price. That's right, our heroine is a reader, and in fact uses The Wizard of Oz as her touchstone. She knows the true, dark story that Baum wrote, and sees her life reflected on every page, in every character. It is her only source of comfort and hope. A glossary of Conglish, prison language, comes in handy because that's how Harry Sue speaks. Her vivacious narrative moves rapidly through a turning point in her life and that of her road dog (a friend you can count on), Homer. Both children finally come into contact with adults who see inside them and force hope into their lives. It's a tragic series of accidents that finally brings Granny's abuse to the attention of authorities and shows both children the possibility of a future. This is a riveting story, dramatically and well told, with characters whom readers won't soon forget.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
With no communication from her incarcerated mother for six years, Harry Sue mistakenly believes that the only way to find her mother is to enter "the joint" herself. As an inmate in training, she learns the vocabulary and resolves to sufficiently harden her heart. Readers will know that is unlikely. Harry Sue devotes her life to protecting the people she loves, notably the tots at her granny's day care (where a dose of cold medicine in the applesauce keeps them manageable) and her best friend, Homer, who is a quadriplegic living in a tree house to escape his clinging mother. Like Dorothy in her favorite story The Wizard of Oz, Harry Sue is accompanied on her quest by a cast of colorful survivors whom life has simultaneously scarred and strengthened. Written with humor and heart, this is intricately plotted and full of unlikely but charming coincidences and characters of endearing eccentricity. It proves the old adage that the greatest courage is in facing your fear head on. "Joint Jive Glossary" included. (Fiction. 8-12)
“Written with humor and heart, this is intricately plotted and full of unlikely but charming coincidences and characters of endearing eccentricity” --Kirkus Review, starred
From the Hardcover edition.