Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen
Allen and Unwin, 2008. ISBN 9781741755909.
(Age 12+) Soli, whose nickname is Shifty, because he shifts in and out of trouble, has a new foster mother Martha, and new foster siblings, Sissy and baby Chance. Martha is the sort of person who trusts 'the good in people, even when the bad part is showing up more than anything else', and Shifty is happy to stay with her. However a new social worker is critical of the care being given, and Shifty is up to his old tricks of driving a car without a licence and parking illegally. Can he manage to stay out of trouble and make a new home for himself?
An engrossing and heart warming story; this book draws the reader in from the first page. Shifty tells his story in his own words, which are often humorous and heart-rending and he makes the characters in this tale come alive. He discounts any accountability for his actions, moving the blame to other people when he gets caught, but Sissy, scarred and withdrawn, is able to show him that he can take care of others and be more adult. Shifty in turn is prepared to act as Sissy's big brother and help give her a feeling of family. Martha, their foster mother, is such a big hearted woman that the reader is cheering her along in her attempts to keep this little family intact.
This is a rewarding book. It describes the trauma of being an abandoned baby, in the case of Shifty, or coming from a cruel, abusive family as Sissy has, or a mother on drugs like Chance. The need to belong and to be loved and the importance of family are emphasised. The strong themes of family love, homelessness and taking responsibility for your own actions are portrayed very well, and reluctant as well as able readers will enjoy Shifty's exploits and angst.