Almost Home, by Joan Bauer (2012)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 9-13
Almost HomeJoan Bauer is one of my favourite authors for young adults – Hope Was Here and Rules of the Road are top of the list for me. Here, she writes for a younger audience, delving into the topic of homeless children in America. Sugar Mae Cole and her mother Reba find themselves without a home when Reba’s gambling addicted husband causes them to lose their Atlanta home. They sleep in the car, couchsurf with family, and finally land in a shelter. Sugar, an eloquent and, remarkably, emotionally sturdy sixth grader, watches helplessly as her mother struggles to recover her pride and a home. She finds solace in two things – her writing and her puppy Shush. Sugar is training Shush to be a helper dog, and he is getting plenty of practice in this family. A lead on a job takes this small, damaged family to Chicago, where Sugar is soon forced to face her worst fears, and finds herself torn between family and stability. Despite the sombre storyline, it is full of life, love and humour, even as it touches your heart. I loved this story, though I’m not sure how much appeal it will have for younger readers. Bauer pulls no punches in describing Sugar’s situation. It is a tough topic for a 10-year-old, though Sugar’s strong relationships with her grandfather, her teacher and even her mother provide satisfying moments of literary pleasure. I particularly enjoyed Sugar’s thank you notes. She inspires me to follow suit. So here goes:
Dear Ms. Bauer: Thank you for bringing Sugar and her family to life in Almost Home. You have a natural gift. I’m grateful you have the courage to share it with the world. It can’t always be easy to do. I liked Sugar’s poetry, though I have to say I wish you had chosen a more powerful name for Sugar. But that’s just my opinion.
Yours very sincerely,
Michelle Mallette
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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