Gr 5-8-Ever since the tragic death of her mother many years ago, Anna Hopkins, 11, and her wistful father, Stephen, have been wandering about Europe, finding work and lodging as they go. Now it is 1969, and by day Anna is a grade-school student on the outskirts of Rome. By night, however, she and her father are street singers, dressed in threadbare clothing and begging among the restaurant tables of the city, then returning to the cheap, run-down pensione they call home. Anna is ashamed of their transient life and longs for a real home and family, like that of her school friend Fiorella. She confides in the pensione's gentle cook, Maria, that she is greatly drawn by an image of America gleaned from her father's rare stories of his bygone youth. But complex Stephen, much as he loves his sensitive daughter, is unable to face the ghosts of his past or look for a steady job. Just as he is planning yet another move-this time to Greece-a chance encounter with an old friend from Missouri turns their fragile world upside down. Goodman creates a palpable sense of place, weaving Italian sights, foods, customs, and language seamlessly into a story that has enough tension to keep readers involved. It will appeal to fans of another tale of life on the run, Amy Ehrlich's Where It Stops, Nobody Knows (Dial, 1988).-Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
For the past 10 years, Anna Hopkins and her father, Stephen, have lived in Europe, most recently in Rome, eking out a living singing for tips in restaurants. Now that Anna is nearly 12, she yearns for a real home, stability, and the family she has never known. She cannot understand her father's stubborn refusal to hold a regular job or to tell her about her mother, who died when she was a baby. When the father and daughter unexpectedly meet an old family friend, Anna learns the truth about her parents and forces her father to make some difficult decisions about their future. Goodman's first novel for young adults will appeal for many reasons. Anna is a sympathetic character, and although she seems much older than her years, she shares many teens' concern about being accepted and belonging. Goodman's description of Rome is so vivid readers will almost be able to smell the garlic and feel the cobblestones. Even the bittersweet ending is realistic: Anna will return to Missouri to live with her grandparents, while Stephen, still unable to accept his wife's death, will continue to roam around Europe.