"David spent the evening in stores, as much as possible, sitting down where he could, and when outside he walked until he was hobbling on blisters and aching legs. He had sat inside storefronts at times, or in blind alleys, but always the cold had forced him back into the streets, walking."

David was on the run. For three days he slept in the cold, wet Seattle streets. Then he was found in the hallway of the old Jefferson Hotel by the bellman, Paul, and harbored in an empty room for a warm night's sleep.For three nights he stayed, evading Paul's questions about his life, ignoring suggestions to meet with someone from the social services. Even with the friendship of Paul and other hotel employees, who knew about his being a fugitive of sorts, David trusted no one. "He didn't want to like this man. He had made enough mistakes already."

Then David ran again. While he feared the cold, dark streets, he feared putting trust in people more.

The cold night, seeing a dead man in an alley and the fear of hitchhiking sent him back to the hotel again. There he found out that Paul had lost his job because of hiding the boy and the problem of foster care became a reality.

"Family Pose" serves as a metaphor for the hotel clan who rally around the skinny boy, David, and while the reader is never quite sure about the outcome of his finding another foster family, there is a satisfying ending as David admits a feeling of "right" to Paul, even if it's temporary.

Utah writer Dean Hughes is the author of 18 novels for young readers. The trademark in each is the strong characterizations, of both adults and children, who emerge as believable and likable individuals. Particularly effective are the "troubled" protagonists who, by chance or through a series of realistic events, bring their conflicts to bear: lonely old man, a preteenager seeking approval of his peers, an orphaned boy who finds no solace after the death of his parents. Hughes is able to sprinkle these conflicts with an assortment of supportive subcharacters in a rich panorama of settings.

While " Family Pose" may not have been as much fun for the author to write as the "Nutty . . ." series, it is a relevant topic about one of the proclaimed million U.S. youngsters who do run away each year. Its message is one that needs broadcasting: The streets are not safe, and there may be alternatives to an undesirable home or foster-care situation.

Dean Hughes has written a relevant novel at a crucial time when discussion of runaways and temporary or permanent out-of-home care is a vital topic in more than a social services arena.