Also Known As Harper
by Leal, Ann Haywood

With great aspiration to be a poet one day, Harper Lee Morgan uses her own family's hardship as a source of material for her most recent work after her father suddenly leaves, the family gets evicted, and she is forced to leave school to take care of her younger brother while her mother works several jobs to make ends meet.

ANN HAYWOOD LEAL volunteers at her local soup kitchen, and this novel grew out of her concern for the very real issue of homelessness in our own backyards. Ann is an elementary-school teacher in Waterford, Connecticut.

Things are up and down for fifth-grader Harper Lee Morgan. Her father and his drinking are gone, and her mother is trying to hold the family together, but the rent is past due, and their landlady, Mrs. Early, is out of patience. Harper Lee knows that all too well, thanks to the snide comments of her classmate Winnie Rae Early. Harper is focused on readying her poetry for a school contest, but when her mother loses her job and Harper has to stay home with her younger brother, Hemingway, her hopes for the contest fade away. First-time novelist Leal takes a narrative with familiar elements-the family abandoned by the drunken father, a seemingly hopeless situation redeemed by a hopeful heroine-and elevates it with her characters, who though familiar are sharply and sympathetically drawn. One of the highlights is Harper s poetry, interspersed throughout the book. Although the ideas behind the poems are sometimes sophisticated for a fifth-grader, they are written in a clear and natural way that will speak to readers and make them think. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Harper Lee Morgan loves nothing more than the tingle of a new poem working itself out in her head. And all she wants is to win the poetry contest at school. However, after her father abandons the family, Harper, her mother and her younger brother, Hemingway, get evicted from their apartment and must finally settle themselves in an abandoned drive-in movie projector house. Harper, charged with taking care of Hem while her mother works, cannot make it back to school in time for the contest. Luckily, she and Hem find some friends who help guide them through their transition to homelessness and who ultimately help them into a new, albeit temporary, home. Meanwhile, Harper learns some important lessons on the meaning of home and family, and she comes to know that, when her poetry is concerned, the right audience trumps a big crowd every time. Occasionally oversentimental, but the likable characters, their misfortunes and especially their self-reliance will keep readers, particularly fans of the Boxcar Children and other such fare, enthralled. A poignant debut. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

"Hey, Hem." I moved a couple of boxes aside so he could come in. "You don't believe in letting a person settle themselves in before you get to bothering them, now, do you?"

But I patted the corner of the bed. Hemingway's company wasn't so bad. He had a way about him that made all the tired go out of a person.

"Mama says we got to move pretty quick here," he said, eyeing all my boxes.

"Not just yet." I straightened up a stack of poems on my bed. "She just wants us to get a head start, is all."

"Thing is..." He bit at a hangnail on his thumb and I knew what was coming. Hem always got fidgety when he was thinking about Daddy. "How's he going to find us?"

I pulled his thumb away from his mouth. "He'll find us if the time comes."

I knew how badly Hem wanted Daddy to come walking back up our front steps, and I wanted that for him, I really did. But I wasn't so sure I wanted that for me.

He got up and took a good look out my bedroom window. "It's almost time to go out, Harper Lee."

"You know I'm not going to go out to the porch," I reminded him.

He leaned forward as if he was going to tell me a good secret. "But I'm thinking I might wait on the driveway path today, right out front, you know? Just so as he can see me better."

But deep down, I think Hemingway knew as well as I did, when Daddy had made his way down that driveway path a whole year ago, he had never figured on coming back.

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