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A Shelter in Our Car Hardcover – January 16, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-After her father died, eight-year-old Zettie and her mother left Jamaica in search of education and a better life in America. They now live in an old car. Zettie's daily routine includes waking up to blaring sirens and flashing lights, washing in cold water in a park rest room, being bullied by boys at school, and feeling hungry and resentful. Spending time with a friend who is also homeless, and a reassuring encounter with a concerned policeman bring comfort at crucial moments, but the girl's life is not an easy one. Not since Maurice Sendak's We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (HarperCollins, 1993) has a picture book dealing with homelessness maintained such emotional intensity. The illustrations call to mind images by Georges Rouault. Pedlar's figures are defined with thick black lines; exaggerated features and the expressionistic use of color accentuate the family's suffering. In the end, Mama's successful day helping at a Health Fair and the promise of a job lead to a bed and shower in a motel-and hope. Children will be moved by Zettie's plight and relieved that there are options.
Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. The kids at school call her Junk Car Zettie. After Papa died in Jamaica, Zettie and Mama came to America, where they now live in the city in the backseat of their car, while Mama tries to go to school and also earn money to pay rent for a room. This picture-book brings close the harsh realities of being homeless, scavenging for food, washing in the park rest room, being harassed by police. The illustrations are in an intensely emotional modernist style with exaggerated facial expressions and body language. The strong, black-outlined figures are scary at times, but then so is the nightmarish reality of being without shelter. At the end of the book, Gunning asks kids to get involved in helping the homeless, and many children will want to talk about the idea with adults close to them. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 560L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Children's Book Press (January 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892391898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892391899
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,288,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By T. Kenny on September 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I heard the author of this book read the story at a Children's Book event and I was really stunned by it. I realized that my almost 5 year old son had no idea that there are people who don't have homes, and I felt rather chagrined about that fact. This story of a girl and her mother who are living in their car as the mother tries to find work and save enough money to rent an apartment was so beautifully done I had tears in my eyes for hours afterwards, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I think it is incredibly important for parents to make our children aware that there are lots of problems in our communities that deserve our attention and that we need to be aware of how others are faring, and not focus solely on the welfare of our families alone. This book does not pull any punches, but it is very tender and focused on the primacy of love between a parent and a child. The illustrations convey the emotional intensity of the story in a unique and eye-catching way. I think this book is a great starting point for any parent who wants help in trying to develop a compassionate child who is aware of the shortcomings and strengths of his or her community.
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Format: Paperback
This book although fictional, is also not so fictional. There are thousands of people that are homeless today including many of them children. Yes, many do live in their cars too, the one possession that might keep them safe. Many live in shelters or with other members of their family, and yes, the streets. Homelessness has many views.

The two main characters in this book, Zettie and her Mama, have to do many undignified things just to survive, like washing in the bathroom at the park, and being told to move their car after they have gone to sleep. They also have to trust some others who live on the street and even the police, this too can lead to danger. Mama takes care of Zettie as best as she can and constantly tells and shows her love for her. The story is heart-wrenching and an eye opener to maybe those that do not have to live a life of indignities.

The illustrations are done with chalk as cartoon-ish chunky characters. The colors are mainly muted and darker which adds to the overall sadness of the book.

However, in the end there is hope for these two which packages the book in a nice tidy bow but for those living a life on the streets, hope can be as little as finding your next meal.

The book is targeted to 6+ and much discussion can take place with the reading and rereading of this book. Think about it and read this winner of a book. 5 stars!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for my open and honest opinion. The views expressed here are 100% my own and may differ with yours. ~Naila Moon
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on December 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book handles homelessness well.

As far as street kids go, Zettie seems unjaded and sweet-hearted.

Great illustrations -- especially the faces! All the emotion is right there.

The end of the book is so happy and hopeful -- very well done
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By Diane M. Milinkovich on April 1, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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