Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Parked Book Poster Image
Poverty, being unhoused explored in hopeful tale.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

If you are alive, you are responsible, and if you have your eyes open, you don't get to choose what you see. A hand is a good thing to hold. Don't close your eyes to suffering, but understand that not everyone wants help either. Friendship sometimes requires patience. Change can be tough, but it can also bring people together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are two strong single moms in this book who love their kids and sacrifice mightily for them but struggle to give them what they need. For the majority of the book, Jeanne Ann's mom works so much to make ends meet that she rarely sees her daughter. Cal's mom doesn't entirely understand Cal, but she exhibits tough love, which ultimately helps him grow. The neighbor Sandy gives Jeanne Ann food, while his wife sneaks her money.




Many books are listed or referenced, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Redwall, Merci Suarez Changes Gears , Matilda and The BFG. Popsicles, Vienna Beef, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Julia Child.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult customers are served alcohol at a restaurant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Parked is a middle-grade novel that explores what it means for a kid and her mom to survive in a van on the streets of a major American city. Jeanne Ann and her mom, Joyce, buy a van and drive from Chicago to San Francisco without a plan and without much money. Jeanne Ann is already accustomed to spending long stretches of time without her mom, who works in the restaurant industry. In San Francisco, though, she can't camp in the stacks at the library while her mom's at work, for fear that the van -- holding all of their earthly belongings -- will be towed. Poverty is painted with broad strokes, and living in a van is a life-altering trial for Jeanne Ann, but the focus on family and neighbors keeps the story sunny and hopeful.

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What's the story?

In PARKED, by debut novelist Danielle Svetcov, 12-year-old Jeanne Ann's mom tells her that they are moving from their home in Chicago to San Francisco. The pair of them are to travel across the country in an orange van that they've named The Carrot. There are shelves for books in the van, pans hanging from a rack, sleeping bags, and, when they get to San Francisco, a view of the Bay. But camping in the van loses its allure after a week, and Jeanne Ann's mom is having a really hard time finding work. A 12-year-old boy named Cal, who lives in a house nearby the van, takes an interest in Jeanne Ann and tries to help her. Life becomes more complicated as the days tick by, and Jeanne Ann realizes that her mom's inability to provide for them has them hanging by a thread. If she can accept the help of her new community, she just might get to have the things that she wants in life, like access to books, enrollment in school, an actual address, and maybe a good friend.

Is it any good?

This relatable and beautifully told story of struggle and friendship looks at poverty in America, while maintaining a feeling of hope. Romanticizing or criticizing the burden that Jeanne Ann and her mom face would cut into the momentum of the story, but it stays real, and at the same time, age-appropriate. Parked explores the sacrifice people make to realize their American dreams.

Parked is told in two voices: Jeanne Ann's and a boy named Cal, who watch each other from across the street. Cal lives in an ultra modern luxury home, whereas Jeanne Ann lives in a van. He's sensitive; she's tough. He wants to help; she refuses his charity. Kids will like the dance and tension between characters, and they will relate to Jeanne Ann's ability to survive on peanut butter and pretzels. But they will also root for Cal, whose awkward efforts to help really do come from the heart in this optimistic tale of survival in the big city.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how hbeing unhoused and privilege are portrayed in Parked. What does having money mean to Cal and his mom? What does it means to Jeanne Ann and her mom?

  • Neither Jeanne Ann or Cal use devices of any kind. Is that believable for kids their age in a digital capital like San Francisco? Did their lack of devices make the book seem any less realistic, or do some kids simply not use devices?

  • Jeanne Ann refuses Cal's help throughout the book. What does it say about her frame of mind? Can you think of movies or shows where people in need accept or refuse help? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and family stories

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