Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Joan Bauer. New York: Viking, 2012. 264 pp.
Rating: Striking

Being a kid is tough. There's no need to add parent/child role reversals to adolescence. Sometimes, however, it is inevitable. No one knows this more than Sugar Mae Cole.

Sugar lives with her flighty mother, Reba, who aspires to be a grand Southern Belle. Her father, Mr. Leeland, as Sugar refers to him, is an absent parental figure constantly scouring the country seeking his next big win. In her father's stead, grandfather King Cole, showers Sugar with love, support, and lots of sage advice chocked full of life lessons.

Life is color. Sugar Mae Cole, greeting card writer extraordinaire, 

artfully illustrates that it's whatever color you choose to paint it. Early
on the reader becomes quickly aware of Sugar's quick wit, enterprising nature, and persuasiveness; which, serves her well during her harrying months of homelessness. Mrs. Pittman's statement, "Sugar Mae Cole, I give you the ability to see monsters in the deep and to not be afraid when they surface" (32), foreshadows the hardships Sugar soon faces.

Almost Home is a salute to writing and healing, children and parents, perseverance and support, as well as, strength and sweetness. It's also a celebration of gifted students. I loved the fluidness of Bauer's writing. The plot could not have been more realistic. Applying King Cole's advice, Sugar aptly assumes a maturity beyond her years, as she secures temporary shelter, navigates a new city, and maintains a positive disposition. Although Sugar saves Shush from the animal shelter, he actually rescues her. Shush represents safety, hope, and new beginnings. In Shush, Sugar sees herself--frightened, but fighting to live. My only issue with the novel, which isn't much of an issue as it is a pet peeve, concerns Sugar and Joonie addressing their parents by their first names.

I highly recommend for any middle grade classroom and school library. Click on the link to view the book trailer.

Favorite Quotes

  • "Everyone alive has good parts and bad parts to them. Some people work hard to develop the good parts, and others work hard on the bad. I think we can respect a person's potential--what they could be--but we don't have to like it if they're acting the wrong way." (12)
  • "Last summer I went to gifted-and-talented camp. My mom can't afford to send me this year, so she's unleashing me on an unsuspecting public" (170).
  • "On the planet of Ziddo all children can trust their parents, because all parents have gone to PE class--that's parent education. They have to get at least a C-plus or they have to repeat the class again." (169)
  • "We celebrate  the wrong people sometimes.
    We should wake up and see who the real heroes 
    are and give them the star treatment.
    I nominate Mr. Bennett for star-hood.
    Here's how his life should go.
    His pickup truck is surrounded by his adoring
    He waves, signs a few report cards, and drives off 
         as the crowd screams.
    Mr. Bennett makes Time magazine's list of Most
         Influential People.
    Greatest teacher in America is awarded the Nobel
         Prize for Everything
    as rubber chickens take the country by storm." (138)  [Such a beautiful tribute to teachers]
Note: Teachers, I've already started gathering an assorted array of blank greeting cards for the thank-you note game and for any student who desires to master the art of personal greeting messages.

***All quotes taken from ARC***

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