Resource Links: Vol 5, No. 1, October 1999
Sisters Sarah and Jennifer are on their own. Their mother has died of cancer and their father, unable to cope with the loss of his wife, the financial debts amassed by her illness and the burden of raising two girls by himself has sunk into an alcoholic stupor. The girls are moved from plae to place and school to school, often without food, clothing or proper shelter. Finally, faced with possible sexual abuse from one of their father’s friends, the girls escape and board a bus in search of their mother’s sister who is a vice-principal somewhere in Vancouver.
Along the way they enter the dangerous world of the homeless. Throughout their quest they meet some helpers in surprising places. Author Alison Lohans was shortlisted for Canadian Library Association and several Saskatchewan book awards, and won two Young Readers’ Choice awards. In this novel, she writes about contemporary subjects like death, abandonment, child abuse and homelessness in a way which helps children explore these issues and think of their own ability to deal with adversity and survive.
The plot ad characters are well developed and the author makes good use of Canadian settings. The only flaw is a rather rapid resolution. However, this does not detract from the excellent issues and characters. I would highly recommend this novel as part of a class set for novel study or as part of a public or elementary library collection. Gail Lennon
This was rated Excellent, and made Resource Links’ Best of 1999 list.
Jurors’ comments from the 1999 Saskatchewan Book Awards, Children’s Literature category, for which it was a finalist:
This contemporary story brings us into the world of the neglected, abused and homeless. Jennifer and Sarah are two sisters who have been victimized by their mother’s death and their father’s lack of control in trying to deal with her death. Their unemployed father has turned to alcohol and bad ompany in the aftermath of his wife’s death and consequently the family has been moving quite frequently with very little money and food to sustain them. After one of their father’s friends makes an attempt to abuse the younger sister, the two decide that the time has come to leave. They set out from Winnipeg to find their aunt, a vice-principal, in a school in Vancouer.
As the two young girls set out on their quest, they become part of the urban homeless. Here we are shown glimpses of this world which is becoming more and more prominent, especially in the large urban areas of our country. With only a small amount of money, the girls have to find food and shelter and a way to get to Vancouver.
The story is well developed and the characters are very believable. The issues which are brought to life – death of a parent, alcoholism, child abuse, homelessness – are very real in our contemporary society and are dealth with in a fairly sensitive, non-threatening manner.
A good read for the elementary aged reader.
No Place for Kids is a tough book about a tough situation that is all too common in our society. Two kids trying to survive on their own.
Regina Sun, May 30, 1999
No Place for Kids is a new novel for middle readers by Regina author Alison Lohans.
In this story, Lohans has tackled a difficult theme, especially in a book which will be read by children 7-12 years of age. Two sisters find themselves homeless. Hungry and frightened, they must live by their wits as they try to find a way to safety. Sarah, the younger sister must rely on her sometimes unpredictable 12-year-old sister Jennifer.
After their mother died of cancer, their father began drinking. Now the children move from city to city in the company of their drunken father and his acquaintances. The girls remember their old home, their father’s previous behaviour, their piano lessons and their mother’s loving kindness.
The story opens in a house in Winnipeg. The squalor is described in details like the contents of the fridge. “All that was inside was two bottles of beer. And some greenish bologna, plus a few slices of mouldy bread and a slimy mess where something had spilled.”
When the girls can stand the neglect and danger no longer, Jennifer decides they will try and travel to their aunt who lives in Vacouver. Their limited savings and the kindness of a stranger gets them as far as Regina. Despite the horrendous situation, the two children persevere and use their own intelligence and resources to solve problems and survive.
Young readers can admire and empathize with these characters. Lohans has taken a difficul subject and made a beliebable story for children. “She tackles every child’s fear of abandonment and replaces it with confidence in their own survival skills.”
Grey-Bruce “This Week”, Owen Sound, ON November 11, 1999
After reading Alison Lohans’ new novel about street kids, nine to twelve year old readers will be thankful for their homes.
in No Place for Kids twelve-year-old Jenifer and her younger sister, Sarah, have been travelling across the country with their father. Since their mom died, the dad has become a big-time alcoholic loser. The kids live in flop-houses with undesirable characters. When one of their father’s sidekicks offers Sarah candy for favours, the sisters split the scene. They are determined to cross the prairies and reach their aunt on the West Coast – by hook or by crook.
The girls sleep in schools, eat out of garbage cans and do what they can to survive. Unfortunately, Jennifer pays a high price for that survival. Trusting no one, she does what she has to in order to feed herself and her sister – until she ends of facing arrest.
The interesting plot and characters are framed by Lohans’ short sentences and clear style. This book will definitely suit middle readers. It gives a chilling look at homelessness that hopefully readers will never have to experience and will make them grateful for their domestic comfort.
Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Regina author Alison Lohans is at it again, celebrating her newest title No Place for Kids. While many writers launch a book every year of two, Lohans works at dizzying speed and has recently produced award-winning work for young adults as well as for the picture-book set. Her focus now is junior fiction, and eight-12-year-olds will quickly fall under the spell of this story of two sisters on the run from social services through the sometimes terrifying, sometimes comforting, world of the urban homeless. Typical of Lohans’ recent style….the writing is tight with strong sensory images that clearly capture the sights and sounds of life on the street.