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StorySnoops Children's Book Reviews | Almost Home | Joan Bauer
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Almost Home
by Joan Bauer
LEXILE READING LEVEL: 590L {what is this?}
PUBLISHER: Viking Children's
NO. PAGES: 240
GENRE{S}: Realistic Fiction
ISBN: 0670012890
READ & REVIEWED BY: Eden - StorySnoop

The Story
Almost Home—Book Review

When twelve-year-old Sugar Mae Cole's grandfather dies and her no-good gambling father leaves again, Sugar and her mom Reba lose their house in Missouri. Homeless, they head for Chicago, where Reba thinks she can find work and make a fresh start. Unfortunately, Reba suffers a breakdown, and Sugar and her beloved little rescue dog Shush suddenly find themselves thrust into the foster care system. Reba has always taught Sugar to be gracious though, and Sugar is doing her best to find the good in her situation, even when she is frightened and confused. With the help of her dog, a giving foster family, a former teacher who urges her to continue to write the poetry she so loves, and Sugar's own grace and fortitude, she eventually learns that while she can't control what happens to her, she can control how she responds to her circumstances.
The Scoop
Almost Home—Book Review
{spoiler alert}

Almost Home is a heartwarming story with a nice message about the power of a positive attitude. Throughout Sugar's ordeal, she maintains a relationship with her former teacher who encourages her to write (Sugar's preferred form is poetry) to stay in touch with and understand her feelings. She also falls back on the teachings of her grandfather, who died before the start of the story, but clearly had a large impact on the person Sugar has become. Though Sugar is separated from her mother for a time, she finds the unconditional love she needs in her rescue dog, with whom Sugar feels a special kinship because they have both had a difficult go. Sugar has an indomitable spirit, and learns that her own actions are the only things she can truly control, so she had better make the best of any situation she can. This book touches on the difficult topics surrounding Sugar's situation (a father addicted to alcohol and gambling, drug use by kids without a solid, grounding influence in their lives, the reality of sleeping on the streets or living in a shelter), but in very age-appropriate way. Animal lovers will adore the puppy Shush, but sensitive readers should be aware that a different dog dies from old age. Sugar has a delightful and inspiring relationship with her former teacher, and obviously had a very special bond with her late grandfather. This book would probably be most enjoyed by older elementary school or young middle school readers.
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