Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Standalone. Viking Juvenile (Sept. 2012) Library
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.

Reba says part of why I'm on this earth is to bring a little sweetness into people's lives. "And sweet doesn't mean stupid," she says. "Sweet doesn't mean weak. I'm not talking kittens wearing sun hats either. I'm talking kindness. You go out there, Sugar Mae Cole, and show 'em what it means to be sweet."

Sugar is a tough girl working through a difficult time in her and her mother's life. She feels like she's the grownup while her mother is the child. The relationship between her mother, Reba, and Sugar is very close and important in this story. There are moments where you see all that Reba has done for her daughter like make her know what being grateful means while also letting her down when it comes to her father. 

Sugar constantly writes thank you notes to those who have helped her. She writes poems about what she's going through. And Sugar writes e-mail's to her former teacher Mr. B after she loses her home and moves to Chicago. She's a writer through and through that captures her struggles and her determination through her writing and her voice.

You keep saying that you're sorry,
But I wonder if you are.
I don't see you changing to make things better.
I don't see you reaching out to help me
Or getting any help for yourself.
Who's the mother anyway?
Is it you or me?

Shush is a dog that purrs who comes into Sugar's life with what felt like fate. He's been kicked around by his former owner's father so he's very quiet and very nervous. He grows throughout this story just like Sugar and Reba. He just reminds me how much dogs and pets can bring joy and great perspective in your life. Like Sugar always says, he's going to be the great one day.

I am the stone girl.
You can't reach me.
I wont let you.
You can't hurt me anymore.
Nobody can.

Sugar has to deal with homelessness, her mother's sudden stressed-induced depression, and her father, Mr. Leeland's false promises. I loved Sugar, Shush, their story, and the new family that took her in. Sugar found herself making a new friend Dante and found a job walking dogs. One thing she learned about Mr. B was to sell something. She sells her dog's greatness and her abilities the whole time. I can tell the whole time that the way Sugar projects her kindness and her belief on other people (and animals) will cement how wonderful she will grow up to be.

Overall, Almost Home is hopeful, poetic, and inspiring.


  1. This novel is fantastic, isn't it? The world needs the sweetness that Sugar brings. To all of us.

    1. Totally agree! I even raised up the star level as I began to examine the book once again so I can review it.

  2. I read and loved this book. Sugar is sweet and kind. So glad to hear you enjoyed Almost Home too. :)

    1. I've got to read more of Bauer's books if they are going to be like this. There are some books that provide you with so much hope in mankind.


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