Publisher's Note:  

Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer's new novel will touch your heart

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.

Almost Home

by Joan Bauer

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Overall Review:  

One would think a girl with the name "Sugar Mae Cole" would have a pretty sweet life, right? Unfortunately, names don't always have the power to change the way a person's life goes. Sugar has had a hard time of it lately. Even though she is only twelve, she's seen a lot of trouble in those short years. I had the impression that she didn't have much of a childhood; instead she was the one holding her family together when things went downhill.

Sugar is a kid, just like any other kid. She goes to school, deals with friendships and hardships, moves on. But some things one just can't get past without dealing with them and facing them head-on. Sugar seemed like the perfect candidate to solve problems, rather than ignore them. Sugar is a good example of what many young kids go through these days. I was fortunate enough to have a "normal" family with a mom, a dad, brothers, and sisters, but Sugar doesn't have that support system. She feels alone, and even though she tries to look at things in the most positive way possible, she can't always make things turn out the way she wants them to.

This book was written in a way that will appeal to elementary age kids (especially girls). It deals with some tough issues, but none of them are delved into very deeply, so it doesn't bog down the reader. This book is a simple peek into a world that I have never experienced, but I am very aware exists. Sugar's story, albeit fictional, is a good way to introduce subjects such as homelessness, in a way that will let young readers understand it, and yet not be too harsh.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation.

Violence/Gore:  A man kicks a young animal for no reason; a girl is bullied by her peers; a boy reports his uncle shot his pet; a minor is mentioned to have died from a drug overdose.

Sex/Nudity:  Adults kiss one time; a man tries to flirt with a woman in an unwelcome manner.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Divorce, bullying, homelessness, gambling, death of a loved one.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Beer is mentioned to be in a fridge; a woman is mentioned to drink alcohol; drug use is mentioned; a death from an overdose occurs; a man is mentioned to be drunk.

Reviewed By Lydia
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