Monday, March 11, 2013
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: ALMOST HOME
Hey, it's my second week in a row featuring a novel with a dog on the cover. (And isn't that just the sweetest looking dog?) But, despite the cover dogs and despite being Cybils' finalists, ALMOST HOME and FOURMILE couldn't be more different.
HERE'S WHAT IT'S ABOUT: (via Goodreads)
When twelve-year-old Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren't so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar's mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can't control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.
"Mr. Bennett walked into room 212 carrying a plastic bag. He smoothed his sweatshirt that read DEATH TO STEREOTYPES, tucked Claus his rubber chicken under his arm, raised one eyebrow, and jumped on his desk. He opened the bag, lifted a loaf of bread in the air and shouted, "Sell it to me."
(My note: This is an interesting opening, as it starts with an adult, and we don't know until several paragraphs later that this is even a first person narrator.)
WHY I LIKED IT:
Sugar Mae Cole, the MC, is sweet, spunky, and a survivor. She finds herself having to fill an adult role for her mother, who has what used to be called a nervous breakdown when the two of them move to Chicago to find work.
The adult characters are also nicely drawn. Mr. Bennett, Sugar's first language arts teacher, is the sort of teacher we'd all wish for our kids to have. The foster parents are also upstanding and caring. The "villain" is Sugar's father, who has a gambling problem and is a total flim-flam artist. We are glad when Sugar refuses to be taken in by him again.
Dogs. The dogs in this novel are the greatest. Shush, the puppy Sugar 'rescues,' is adorable, as is the old hound, Merlin, whom she takes to walking through her new Chicago neighborhood. Be warned: tears will be shed over these dogs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ALMOST HOME is Joan Bauer's 11th novel. Her novel, HOPE WAS HERE, was a Newbery Honor winner in 2000. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her computer scientist husband, Evan Bauer, and their wheaten terrier, Max.
Joan Bauer's website