Following Fake Man by Barbara Ware Holmes.
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House: NY, 2001.

What an excellent book! I found it looking for mysteries. It is just what I wanted - not the standard mystery. It is layered with concepts. The first to be revealed is the family secret being hidden from Homer about the father he doesn't remember. Then, the mystery of Fake Man, disguised and sneaking around the tiny town of Herring Cove. Homer's life changing as a result of making a friend and pursuing both mysteries. Also, the idea of what it is to be an artist. All four of these themes are what make the book.

Homer is a great character. One of the best things about the book is how convincing his thoughts and feelings are, and their depth. He undergoes a huge personal transformation, made possible by the excitement of a new place and the awareness that he can learn about his father without his mother, by asking townspeople who might have known him. Homer starts out as closed-up as his mother, but his friendship and what he learns pries his clamshell wide open. He also has some profound insights regarding his life and his drawing. I enjoyed Homer's pure enjoyment of exploring the town and his new friendship.

The suspense of the mysteries is carried well throughout the book. Possibly due to there being more than one, and the linking of them builds excitement throughout the story.

The format of the book is a little different. There are brief chapters that provide perspectives besides Homer's. This disrupts the flow but also adds to the story. I'm not crazy about the graphic ones, though, with the silly comments. I believe this was done to lighten a story which becomes a little heavy/depressing at the end. These inserts seemed goofy to me and interrupted an otherwise great story. It's possible it was done for a young audience. The story is accessible to 4th and 5th graders, but because of the major theme of Homer's father's death, I would say older is better.

related-father, artists, mystery and detective stories, Maine, identity, friendships, spying, boys, adventure, high interest
RL=7th and up

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