Monday, March 11, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: ALMOST HOME

ALMOST HOME by Joan Bauer (Viking, 2012)

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.)


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.


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


  1. It is a darn cute dog on the cover. Yea for stories in which a parent is the villain. Good times:)

  2. Sounds like a good story. Love the dog on the cover, especially since we're getting our first dog soon.

  3. Aw...such a cute cover (not that I'd choose a book by its cover). It sounds like a great read. I'm going to look for it!

  4. Sounds like a really lovely story that would melt my heart. Now I'm curious though, the tears shed over the dogs, were they happy or sad?


  5. I haven't read a Joan Bauer book in awhile. Thanks for alerting me to her new one. I just want to reach out to that dog on the cover - and I'm allergic! :)

  6. Oh, I love Joan Bauer. Hope Was Here is my favorite, but I also like Peeled and others.

    With the homeless issue and the love of poetry, this sounds a bit like Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal.

  7. The cover will definitely draw middle grade readers (and dog lovers) in. :) I like how the dogs are used to help cope with the difficult life circumstance. Sounds like a great book.

  8. I love the sound of this one and it looks like my brother's dog. MG kids will definitely pick this one up. Thanks for sharing. :)

    ~Stephanie@The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow

  9. Thanks for sharing this one, Michael. Loved this book oh yes I did!


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