Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Lost Boy: A Foster Child's Search for the Love of a Family

Bibliographic Information: Pelzer, D.  (1997).  The lost boy: A foster child's search for the love of a family.  Florida: Health Communications.  ISBN: 978-1558745155 

Plot Summary: The Lost Boy... is a retelling of one man's, Dave Pelzer, experience in the foster system from the ages of 12-18. The story begins with a heartwrenching recollection of Pelzer's time beneath his mother's abusive rule and constant maltreatment. Pelzer lives through constant mistreatment, while his father passively attempts to stop his mother, but gives up in order to "keep the peace." It is never quite stated why, but Pelzer's mother hates him beyond reason and makes sure to let Pelzer know every day. The story truly begins when Pelzer is finally taking into custody and made a ward of the court. Pelzer then lives through a couple of different foster homes, never quite feeling at home. Pelzer's situation finally culminates with a serious run in with the law and an eventual change in future plans. Pelzer's journey speaks to a young boy and man searching for a place to call home. 

Critical Evaluation: A reoccurring motif in Pelzer's book, and life, is the stripping and rejection of his identity as a person. Pelzer's abusive mother seems incapable of referring to Pelzer as "David" or "Dave," always referring to him as "The Boy" or "It." She feels it necessary to strip him of his name, or individual identity, in order to justify treating Pelzer as a form of garbage. By removing Pelzer's identity, Pelzer's mother removes any reason to feel sympathy or remorse for her actions. In essense, if Pelzer is not quite a person then she is able to treat him as she would a microwave or vacuum. This refusal to acknowledge Pelzer as a human being creates the distance she needs to play her "games" and terrorize Pelzer. Pelzer, on the other hand, does not begin to regain his identity until he meets a series of loving foster home figures that remind him that he is allowed to feel, enjoy, and run around. Pelzer can be seen always struggling with the reoccurring image of the "It;" the ever persistent feeling that his happiness and new found existence will be taken from him. All in all, Pelzer's tie to his identify (in name, clothing, personal space) marks the difference between being an abandoned teen and becoming a developed man.    

Reader’s Annotation:
One boy's search for love and acceptance takes him on a wild journey that many often do not survive. 
Information About the Author: Dave Pelzer grew up being terribly abused by an alcoholic mother (Pelzer, 2012). Pelzer never understood why his mother hated so much but had to endure her wrath in order to survive  (Pelzer, 2012). Pelzer is finally saved at the age of 12 when school figures finally interceded on his behalf (Pelzer, 2012). At the time of discovery, the Pelzer abuse case proved to the the worst in recorded U.S history (Pelzer, 2012). Pelzer then went on to become a ward of the state and experienced a variety of different foster homes (Pelzer, 2012). Pelzer then enlisted in the Air Force where he worked doing midair refuel (Pelzer, 2012). Pelzer went on to receive several medals and commendations for his works from the state of California to the President of the United States (Pelzer, 2012) Pelzer is dedicated to helping others.

Pelzer has also written: A Child Called "It," A Man Names Dave, Help Yourself, The Privilege of Youth, Help Yourself for Teens, Moving Forward (Pelzer: Books, 2012). Pelzer plans on continuing to write books and spread his experiences in order to help others come to terms with their own.

A trailer for The Lost Boy...

Genre: Non-fiction, Crossover, Contemporary

Homelessness and Foster Living Arrangements, Mental Illness
Curriculum Ties: Can tie into a section on mental health and relationships.

Booktalking Ideas:

1). Why does Pelzer's mother find it necessary to refer to Pelzer as "The Boy?"
2). Is Pelzer's delinquency a product of his environment?  
3). Does this book give a fair presentation of foster homes?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Lexile Reading Level: 720/AD (Follett's Titlewave, 2012). 

Adult to YA crossover (, 2012). 

Challenge Issues: This book includes violence, abuse, and some crime. I would use the following items if this book was ever challenged:

1) Refer to Library Bill of Rights, see items: I, II, and III (
2) Refer to San Diego Public Library collection policy - (  Original site: The American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read/View Statement (
3) Refer to California School Library Association (CSLA), Model School Library Standards - September 2010 ( PDF: (
4) Refer t0 American Association for School, Librarians Standards for the 21st Century Learner (
5) Contact Office of Intellectual Freedom for any further support, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223 or
6) Refer to legitimate book reviews, such as: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book and others; found on either Academic Search Premier, Follett's TITLEWAVE, or

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:
In The Lost Boy... Pelzer closely examines his own life experiences with both verbal and mental abuse. These experiences are important to share with teens because it helps them differentiate between healthy and toxic relationships. This type of controversial literature allows teens to understand complex topics without directly experiencing them.

Reference Page:  (2012).  Adult to YA crossovers: The lost boy... Retrieved August 3, 2012 from category_number=128&start_id=153&order=p

Follett's Titlewave.  (2012). The lost boy... Retrieved August 3, 2012 from Follett's Titlewave iPhone app.

Pelzer, D.  (2012).  About. Retrieved August 4, 2012 from

Pelser, D.  (2012).  Books.  Retrieved August 4, 2012 from

cover art:

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