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Being with Henry Hardcover – April 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though Brooks (Bone Dance) develops a poignant relationship between a runaway teen and an octogenarian widower, other elements of her story--the awkward structure, improbable plot and stereotyped minor characters--ultimately undermine the novel. For instance, after establishing a leisurely pace in the first chapter, in the following chapter, the author moves the protagonist through an entire year in the space of four pages. Readers may find it challenging to follow Laker Fontaine's 16th year as he moves jerkily along through a series of dramatic turns. When he gets into a brawl with his verbally abusive step-father, in defense of his mother, the woman kicks him out of the house. Laker then boards a bus to the town of Bemidji, where 83-year-old Henry takes him in despite protests from his overbearing daughter. During the next several months, Laker and Henry come to rely on each other: Laker offers Henry companionship; Henry, in turn, gives Laker a sense of security and enough freedom to mull over his past and make decisions about the future. Shifting between third-person narrative and cryptic journal entries penned by Laker, this novel relies heavily on coincidence and catastrophe. Readers will be all too aware of the author's hand in directing Laker's fate. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-Laker and his mother have always had a close relationship, but things change after she remarries. When his stepfather verbally abuses her, Laker attacks him and is thrown out of the house. Alone and with no resources, the teen takes off to another town. When his money runs out and he can't get a job since he has no address, he begins to beg. An elderly man, Henry, invites him to stay at his home and do yard work. Laker accepts his offer and an uneasy friendship develops. Henry's grown daughter is upset with the situation and distrusts the boy's motives, but his granddaughter gets over her initial mistrust and jealousy as she and Laker become close friends. When Henry's health begins to fail, Laker realizes how important the old man has become to him and that he cannot go back even after he and his mother reconcile. Linking the elements of the plot is Laker's journal in which he records his dreams, dreams that seem important but that he can't understand. Brooks's incorporation of psychological elements into the narrative adds to the final intensity of the book as Laker discovers the meaning of his dreams, meshes them with reality, and, in the process, finds help in an old friend to bridge the gaps in his life. While the ending seems slightly abrupt, the overall impact of the book is not diminished. The well-rounded, essentially human characters, with all their faults and problems, prove that the closest ties that one can form are not necessarily blood ties, but are those based on mutual love and respect.
Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Series: Melanie Kroupa Books
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: DK CHILDREN; 1st edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789425882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789425881
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,104,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Laker lives with his mother, who had him when she was a teenager. In fact,he was named for the basketball team. She does her best to raise him, although he is at times the grown up in the relationship and she the child. She goes through an assortment of boyfriends and finally marries one she says will be good to them. As part of the marriage Laker must move with them and give up his job babysitting for a family he has become a part of. His new step father hassles him about getting work and their clashes soon lead to violence. With that Laker leaves home. Eventually he is taken in by 83 year old Henry, against the better judgement of his daughter who wants to institutionalize her father. Henry gives Laker shelter in exchange for doing yard work. The two develop a bond and serve each other with strength and support when necessary. Only at the end of the book does the reader get lost. All of a sudden, like magic, Henry is able to help Laker gain information about his real father and fill in the missing parts of his past. The characters are believable and likeable but the fanciful ending is hard to swallow. Books with real male bonding are hard to come by and this one does it well, if only it can find the right readers.
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By A. Luciano VINE VOICE on June 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Laker always managed to take care of his mother, whether it was fixing her favorite foods or calling her in sick to work. He's been around when the men in her life have left her, and they've spent stretches of time alone. But then his mother started dating Rick. They ended up getting married, although Laker didn't like him at all and couldn't see why his mother stayed with him, especially when Rick started to lose his temper with her.

One day, shortly after finding out his mother was pregnant, Laker had enough of his stepfather's bullying and attacked him. He expected his mother would be on his side, but he was wrong. Instead of standing up for him, his mother and Rick threw him out of the house. Laker took the first bus he could and ended up in another town where, after his money ran out, he was reduced to begging on the streets.

While he is begging for money one day, an old man named Henry, driving with his unpleasant daughter, offers him some yard work for money. Henry's daughter thinks it is the worst idea she's ever heard, and grows to hate the idea even more as Laker stays longer and longer with him. Eventually Laker gets a job and starts paying Henry money to live with him. But there is tension in Henry's family and Laker's presence just seems to be making it worse.

I liked seeing the complexities of Henry's family, especially the way he and his daughter related to each other. I also liked the trust that built up between Laker and Henry. I didn't like Laker's relationship with Sarah and the way he treated her.
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By Nanci on February 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Martha Brooks has done it again. She writes real books about characters who are real, substantial and who have hearts that cry and sometimes laugh. Authors who give us life as it is, messy, but don't wallow in bitterness, despair or the shock value of absent values, these are the authors who give us books that are worthwhile.
This is a stunning story about loss and love, about a lost and lonely teenager, and about a lonely, but not so lost, old man who find one another. The twist at the end is sweet, and yet keeps from being sappy.
Highly recommended for teen readers and their parents. Like all great books this is a grand book for any age.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cathy on May 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Raised by a single mother, Laker has to be the man of the house. When Rick comes on the scene, everything changes. Rick cusses and abuses Laker and his mom. When Laker fights with Rick, his mom kicks him out of the house. Laker, penniless, cold and sleeping on the street, meets Henry, 83, widower. Henry takes Laker in which brings its own challenges and surprises. They care for each other and find out how small the world really is.

For mature readers because of offensive language...and there is quite a bit.
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