Nobody said New York City was easy, but for Tolley Holtz, it’s home
Tolley Holtz would rather be exploring the city with his friends, talking about the Yankees, and discussing what President Roosevelt is going to do about the Depression than watching his little brother, Bubber. With his mother working all day in a garment factory and his father looking for work in Baltimore, Tolley’s family depends on him.
But suddenly, things go from hard to unthinkable. When his mother gets pneumonia and can’t leave the hospital, Tolley becomes the only family Bubber can rely on. Afraid that the children’s shelter will split them up, the two brothers hop a crosstown bus and strike out on their own, up and down fire escapes, across rooftops, and into the cellars and shadows of New York City. Tolley will need all the street smarts he’s ever learned to get them through the winter—and to hold on to his dreams of having a family again.
Mazer's perfect dialogue and intimacy with New York's vast boroughs provide the foundation for another of his riveting novels. Tolley Holtz tells what happens during the Depression when his father leaves the family apartment in the Bronx to look for work in Baltimore. Later, when their mother has to be hospitalized, Tolley takes charge of his five-year-old brother Bubba, who refuses to go into an orphanage, as the authorities insist. Tolley and Bubba are starving and homeless until they find shelter in "the cave,'' a cellar under a burned-out restaurant. The hourly perils and narrow escapes affect the reader intensely, particularly when the boys watch animals feeding at the zoo, when Tolley dreams about his mother's cooking, and when Bubba feels guilty because he eats bits of food that he knows Tolley has swiped. There is welcome humor punctuating the brothers' fight for survival in a story that stands out as a testament to love and endurance. (12-up)