As Sarah Dooley's Body of Water begins, Ember, her parents, and
her little sister, Ivy, have just lost their home to a pre dawn fire.
They've been left with literally the clothes they're wearing. It's
not only their home and belongings that have been taken from them.
Their dog is gone and presumably dead.
After getting by on weeks of charity, the family is able to buy
tents and rent space at a vacation campground. Every day presents
challenges. It's hard to scrape together rent, never mind money for
enough food. Even keeping hair and clothes clean is overwhelming.
Hanging over everything like a black cloud is the knowledge that if
the wrong person finds out that they're homeless and destitute and
reports them, Children's Protective Services could tear their family
Ember has reasons other than the need to not raise suspicion for
keeping the other kids at the campground at a distance. She suspects
her best friend of setting the fire that destroyed her home and
probably killed her beloved dog. In her eyes, even though she
sometimes envies Ivy's cheerful and trusting nature, she feels that
letting someone else get close is much too dangerous.
Sadly this sensitive and poignant coming of age story is all too
relevant in today's world. We have many homeless children in our
schools. Some, like Ember and Ivy, belong to families struggling to
survive and stay together. There are other youngsters who have been
abandoned or kicked out by their parents, left to fend for themselves
much too soon.
On a personal note, I was homeless once. It was for a short time long
ago. I can, however, still remember lying awake in a shelter as the
elevated train rumbled past the window every few minutes, desperately
trying to figure out how to find shelter before the days I could stay
would be up and I'd be on the street. I have never lost the fear that
it could happen again.
A great big shout out goes out to the teachers, guidance counselors,
and other caring people who work diligently to help homeless students
stay and succeed in school.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod