© Jane Louise Curry, illustration © Jacqueline Garrick.
This novel for children is a family story with some interesting twists and turns. First published in 1989, it tells of a family living in Los Angeles just on the edge of poverty. Dad has traveled to the midwest to find work, Mom and her five kids are planning to drive across country to join him, but as they are about to leave, she falls seriously ill, and is rushed to the hospital. The kids are suddenly on their own in a camp for homeless people, and before they know what’s happening, the four youngest are sent off to live with a wealthy couple by social services. The oldest girl, Boo, escapes this fate, but soon learns her four siblings have disappeared!
Turns out the wealthy couple have kidnapped the youngest Smiths, and the four children find themselves in an unknown place being trained to become burglars. This part of the story is the most unusual, as the “Dickerys,” are running a sort of forced child-labor burglary business, getting children to perform through clever psychology and tempting rewards. The Smith children try to resist, and plan to escape, but will they be clever enough? Meanwhile, Boo and their family friend, an elderly bag-woman called Auntie Moss, are trying to track the children down, while staying out of trouble with the law themselves.
Jane Louise Curry has written all sorts of novels for children, from high fantasy to science fiction to humorous stories and everyday adventures. This novel falls mostly into the latter two categories, and is entertaining from first to last. Recommended.