Strays Like Us
Strays Like Us
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Annotation: When her drug-addict mother can no longer care for her, twelve-year-old Molly comes to stay with her great-aunt and slowly begins to realize that others in the small town also feel as if they don't belong.
Catalog Number: #4841247
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition Date: 2000
Pages: 155 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-14-130619-X
ISBN 13: 978-0-14-130619-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 97018575
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Molly recounts her seventh-grade year at her great-aunt Fay's while her addict mother is in rehab. Another recent arrival, Will (whose father may or may not be in jail), dubs himself and Molly "strays." Molly takes realistically small steps toward accepting her mother's abandonment of her and her aunt's sincere desire to keep her, and by novel's end both adolescents have found homes and family and are strays no more.
Kirkus Reviews
With a hospitalized heroin addict for a mother and facing the prospect of another new school, Molly Moberly, 12, is a stray who delivers in an abrupt and somewhat detached narrative the details of a year in her life. Molly has been sent to live with a relative by marriage, Aunt Fay. Next door is Will McKinney, a fellow stray living with his grandparents. The wistful, ingenuous narration gains strength as Molly meets the tale's many eccentric characters; their actions have an impact on Molly even as their motives remain mostly unknown: A home-schooled child Molly befriends ("I could only wonder at Tracy having this much mother when I didn't have any") is badly burned after torching the public school; a wealthy, lonely woman Molly visits turns out to be her grandmother; the McKinneys—who had allowed people to think that Will's father was in prison—have been taking care of him at home as he slowly dies of AIDS. The novel settles upon a host of difficult issues and then, indescribably, lets them go: When Will sustains a bloody injury while playing ball, the coach requests that he quit the team because other members are afraid of contracting HIV. Instead of countering this ignorance, Will retreats, and the issue is dropped, with only a few utterances of protest from Aunt Fay. The novel becomes something of a treatise about a generation of children who have been cast aside by their parents; with its compelling premises and Molly's fragile but tautly convincing voice, it will be seized upon by Peck's fans, but may leave them longing for more. (Fiction. 12-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9--In the tradition of The Great Gilly Hopkins (HarperCollins, 1978) comes the story of another child whose mother cannot stay for the long haul. A caseworker leaves Molly Moberly at the house of her great-aunt Fay, a nurse in a small town with a southern ambiance. Next door, Will has been similarly dumped on his grandparents. He reaches out to her, but the girl resists, convinced that her drug-addicted mother will be coming for her any day. The months wear on and Molly shrewdly observes the lives around her, uncovering more than one town secret. She learns that Will's father has died of AIDS, kept at home and nursed by Aunt Fay for fear of the intolerance of small-minded neighbors. She witnesses the ties of loyalty and long experience with others' foibles that can positively characterize relationships in small towns. At last, Molly comes to feel at home. This is a serious, but not unhopeful, look at a situation many young people face. Not every element of the plot is fully integrated, including an arson incident that seems uneasily tacked-on. By and large, however, the book is convincing, and Molly is especially well drawn. Peck gives her a plain-talking voice full of grit and a wonderful originality of phrasing. Many readers will root for Molly and Will as they struggle with the hands their parents have dealt them.--Miriam Lang Budin, Mt. Kisco Public Library, NY
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly
Peck not only understands the fragile emotions of adolescents, he also knows what kind of characters will pique their interest. In this tender novel, he paints a richly detailed portrait of Molly, a drug-addict's daughter sent at the age of 12 to live with a great-aunt she has never met. Molly soon discovers others like her in this small town full of secrets. Next door lives Will, another """"stray,"""" whose father is rumored to be in jail. At the library, she meets home-schooled Tracy, from the wealthy district across town, whose sheltered life may not be quite as comfortable as it appears. And through Aunt Fay, Molly meets Mrs. Voorhees, a hypochondriac who employs her great-aunt as a nurse. Although Molly sorely misses her mother and resists admitting that her stay with Aunt Fay is permanent, she nonetheless becomes involved with the people around her and gradually settles into her first real home. Peck cleverly employs Molly's outsider status to great effect, allowing readers to learn about the characters along with Molly, via her first-person narrative. He draws indications of her assimilation with subtlety and exquisite pacing, over the course of a year in his protagonist's life. As Molly's affection for Will and overworked Aunt Fay (whose phrases she begins to imitate) solidify, she begins to accept that her mother may never return. This sensitive heroine is one readers will want to take under their wing--and will bid her a fond farewell at the story's gratifying conclusion. Ages 10-up. (May)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Peck is at his best in this wry, unsentimental story of three generations in small-town Missouri: their roots, their failures, their loving kindness. The narrator is 12-year-old Molly. Her druggie mother is unable to care for her, so Molly has been dropped off by a social worker with Great-aunt Fay, a practical nurse. Next door is Will McKinney, another stray, dropped off with his grandparents; they say that his dad's in jail. Nervous, funny, clever, the two new kids brave the jungle of junior high together, strangers in a place where people already knew everybody they wanted to. Molly discovers that Will's house hides a heartbreaking secret--his father is dying of AIDS in the attic, deprived of hospital care because the family is afraid that the landlord will evict them if the shameful secret gets around town. It soon becomes clear that Molly and Will are not the only strays in town and that there are secrets even among the rich and settled. The needy locals--the home-schooled kid with too much mothering and Fay's spoiled, pampered old patient--are the least interesting characters, and the revelations about them seem set up. What holds you is Molly's understated, edgy empathy with Will and with the tough woman who has taken her in. Great-aunt Fay has helped nurse Will's dad at home; when he dies, she is grim: I didn't know enough. I couldn't even keep him comfortable. Peck reveals the drama in our simple words and casual gestures. On Molly's first day in the school cafeteria, a girl throws out her hand, not in welcome, but to prevent the newcomer from sitting next to her. When Molly finally accepts the fact that her mother isn't coming back, she asks her great-aunt if she can stay. Fay's answer says it all: There's a lot I can't do for you. But you're home. (Reviewed April 1, 1998)
Word Count: 34,530
Reading Level: 4.1
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.1 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 28282 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.2 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q19194
Lexile: 650L

Molly Moberly knows she doesn't belong in this small Missouri town with her great-aunt Fay. It's just a temporary arrangement--until her mother gets out of the hospital. But then Molly meets Will, a fellow stray, and begins to realize she's not the only one on the outside. In fact, it seems like the town's full of strays--only some end up where they belong sooner than others. Richard Peck has created a rich, compassionate story that will go straight to the heart of every kid who's ever felt like an outsider."This sensitive heroine is one readers will want to take under their wing." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

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