Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Review: A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark
Glenda Millard
2010; Holiday House; ISBN 978-0-8234-2264-7 (hardcover)

Summary:  Twelve-year-old Skip escapes from years of abuse in his foster homes and takes to the streets.  Billy, a homeless man that Skip is friends with, becomes his unofficial father figure, and the two of them watch out for each other.  Their cozy yet uncertain life is thrown into turmoil when a war begins, with bombings in the city they live in.  They struggle to survive, taking in a young boy named Max that they find in the local library.  Eventually, they find a home in an abandoned amusement park, trying to stay away from soldiers who are nearby.  Their family is increased by Tia, a teenage ballerina with a baby they name Sixpence.  But as soldiers approach them, Skip must gather his family together to escape to safety.

An insightful novel with beautiful language, this import from Australia views the destruction of war through a young teen's eyes.  Skip, with his eye for details, notices the light and shadow, color and texture of everything he sees.  In his attempts to find beauty, though, he sees much ugliness, whether it's the bombed-out buildings, the callous actions of survivors, or the cruelty of the soldiers.  He may not understand what he sees, but he attempts to figure them out without losing hold of his new-found family or the hope of art.  In his simple, straightforward manner, Skip draws comparisons to characters like Jonas from The Giver.   A quiet, thoughtful novel, A Small Free Kiss in the Dark offers a hopeful take on surviving disaster.

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