Penguin Group Canada|April 3, 2007|Mass Market Paperbound|ISBN: 978-0-14-331254-3
Dana met Brent and Ashley when she first arrived in town, a scared runaway with nowhere to go. The three of them are like family: they take care of each other; they share the money they beg, borrow, and steal; and they protect each other from the more ruthless street people they come upon. Still, life is lived day-to-day. It’s hard to think about tomorrow when you’ve got no money, no food, and no place to live. And as for the past…well, that’s what they ran away from. It’s what all of them – and especially Dana – are trying hard to forget.
Eric Walter’s new novel is a gritty, gripping tale of street kids, an unblinking portrait of what it means to live on the streets and, more importantly, what it takes to find the way off.
Dana, Ashley, and Brent were panhandling for money near the subway station. So far, Dana had $11.00; Ashley had $5.00; and Brent had less than $2.00. The three of them were street kids and homeless. Dana had only been on the streets for three weeks after running away from home. Home for Dana was 30 miles away and she wouldn’t return there as long as her stepfather lived in the home. Dana had gone to the bank machine to get $40.00 to buy some breakfast but when she returned later she couldn’t access her account. Her stepfather had her card cut-off which ticked her to no end because she had $600.00 in babysitting money in her account and she couldn’t get at it. She admitted that she didn’t see her stepfather pulling that stunt but then thought that was his way of gaining control.
When she first met Ashley, Dana was a little afraid but once they chatted for a while she realized she was cool. Then, Ashley introduced, Dana to, Brent and they became a family. Protecting each other against everything on the rough and tumble streets. Dana was pretty nervous at first wondering if she could trust them, but really what choice did she have. It was more scary to be alone than to trust those two, so she swallowed her fear.
The three of them ended up with enough money to rent a cheap motel for the night for $25.00 and still had $32.00 for breakfast and cigarettes. Dana was so looking forward to sleeping in a bed and being able to have a shower so she could wash her hair it had been two weeks since she’d last washed it.
While, Dana was showering she thought about her 10-year-old sister, Candice. She missed her a lot. She knew she would be confused by Dana’s running away and wishes she could have explained everything to her, but she couldn’t and she wouldn’t. She couldn’t tell anyone. Next thing she knew she was crying and the crying turned to sobbing. Dana slid down the wall of the shower and sat on the wet bottom thinking about her sister, her mother, her friends, her school, and her room. She missed every one of them. Then she thought about her stepfather and the sobbing stopped and was replaced instead by rage and anger.
Dana was under an over-pass spray painting some art on the grey concrete wall when a man in his 30’s approached her and told her he liked her artwork. He had seen it from the train he was riding in across the way. Dana was leery of this guy but after a conversation about Picasso and his art she let her guard down a bit. The guy asked her how long it was going to take her to complete the piece she was working on as he wanted to return later to take some pictures of it. Dana was stunned. Before leaving, the man gave her his business card and told her his name was, Robert Erickson and he worked at a drop-in centre where they made art supplies available to street kids. Robert told her it was a place where she could get things like paint and canvas, or clay and a potter’s wheel, so she could use her talent. He told her to ask around on the street and she’d quickly learn that the place was legit. With that said, Robert walked away. The name of the drop-in centre was ‘Sketches.’
Sketches is where Dana eventually ends up and finds a lot more than she ever dreamed possible. It became a home away from home and the people who worked there were incredibly helpful. Who knows, maybe it was possible to get off the streets.
Sketches is a wonderfully written novel and shows the hardships that kids go through when living on the streets. There is always something to worry about; money, clean clothing; a place to sleep; and finding food. Eric Walter’s will open a few eyes with this one and will hopefully prevent a few kids from leaving home for the streets and hopefully decided to go another route like through a guidance counsellor at school or a clergyperson for help. Well-done!