Random. Oct. 2021. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593376386.
Gr 4 Up–Maya, a white fifth grade student, has a secret she hopes no one at her San Francisco private school will uncover. After her father has a near-fatal accident, her family experiences homelessness, with Maya, her mother, and her little sister living in a shelter across town from her school while her dad recovers in a hospital. This book follows Maya during one fateful day in this secret life: on a long bus ride, at school, and back again. Matheson was inspired to write this story after talking with her own daughter about homelessness in the Bay Area and volunteering together at a family shelter. Authentic details make Maya’s situation stark and real: She wears a braid to prevent lice, experiences hunger pains from a skipped breakfast, deals with having no raincoat on a stormy day, conceals her secret even from her best friend, and must protect her backpack with all her possessions from a mean girl. By turns heartbreaking and affirming, this novel reminds readers what is most important—and what we often take for granted. Tweens will identify with Maya and also learn from her. Maya’s choice not to tell her teachers about her situation may raise some questions, but Maya’s sense of pride comes through.
VERDICT An important purchase for upper elementary and early middle school collections looking to provide a unique, complex perspective on homelessness.–

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