We know immediately that something huge has happened to twelve-year-old Felix Knuttson because he's asking a police officer if he's going to be interrogated. He's seen the procedure on t.v. and wonders if his mother, Astrid is being interrogated in another room. He's assured they are not. He's also outraged because they didn't commit any crimes, the criminals got away and Felix and his mom are at the police station.
Once Felix realizes this sympathetic police officer knows the secret he was sworn to keep, Felix explains how their temporary housing crisis came to be. Felix and Astrid were not always between addresses. For the first part of Felix's fatherless life, the two lived with Mormor, his Swedish grandmother, in Astrid's childhood home. Readers learn, through Felix's matter-of-fact, earnest and endearing narrative about how he developed his love for a trivia game show, Who, What, Where, When, thanks to Mormor, who also made his tomte, a gnome-like creature from Swedish folklore (p.8) that Felix carries everywhere.
After Felix's mormor died, Astrid sold the home and purchased a condo. Astrid lost both her jobs and the building began to sink because it was built on a riverbank. Astrid could not afford the cost of repair and so the condo was sold at a loss. And so, the family downsized again and again, each place a bit danker than the last, until they found themselves evicted and an abusive ex-boyfriend's van was the only option.
It was temporary, Astrid said. It was even fun, until the Vancouver summer turned to fall. Astrid managed to get Felix enrolled in a French immersion school. There, he reunited with an old friend and made a new one. He was happy there but their secret was getting harder and harder to keep what with the availability of showers and clean laundry limited. But Astrid's warning that he would be taken away from her and put in a foster home compelled Felix to stay silent. It was easier to lose friends than to lose Astrid.
Though there is plenty of heartbreak here, Felix is resilient and loves his mom fiercely. He buys into her lies and supports her unconditionally. Until he can't and makes a life-changing decision. Felix is a winning narrator and the reader's heart will break for him again and again; but there's humor and hope to balance things out.
Give No Fixed Address to readers who enjoy humor in their sad books or to fans of How to Steal a Dog or Crenshaw or fans of Nielsen's We are All Made of Molecules and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. Readers will laugh, cry and perhaps examine their assumptions about the homeless. No Fixed Address is a first-purchase. I can't wait to hand this to my students come fall.
276 pages 9781524768348. Ages 10 and up
Recommended by: Brenda Kahn, Library Media Specialist, New Jersey USA
See more of her recommendations: proseandkahn.blogspot.com
For fans of Wendelin van Draanen and Cynthia Lord, a touching and funny middle-grade story about family, friendship, and growing up when you're one step away from homelessness.
Twelve-and-three-quarter-year-old Felix Knutsson has a knack for trivia. His favorite game show is Who What Where When; he even named his gerbil after the host. Felix's mom, Astrid, is loving but can't seem to hold on to a job. So when they get evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van. Astrid swears him to secrecy; he can't tell anyone about their living arrangement, not even Dylan and Winnie, his best friends at his new school. If he does, she warns him, he'll be taken away from her and put in foster care.
As their circumstances go from bad to worse, Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of Who What Where When, and he's determined to earn a spot on the show. Winning the cash prize could make everything okay again. But things don't turn out the way he expects. . . .
Susin Nielsen deftly combines humor, heartbreak, and hope in this moving story about people who slip through the cracks in society, and about the power of friendship and community to make all the difference.--from the publisher