Booktalk for ALMOST HOME by Joan Bauer

Sugar and her mom, Reba, live in a house with a white fence, green front door, and lilacs in the back yard. Sugar has two best friends and the world’s greatest 6th grade teacher, Mr. B. And now she has the cutest puppy, too, a little rescue dog named Shush.

But she also has some serious problems at home. Her father is a gambler. She calls him Mr. Leeland, and it’s better that he’s never around. He makes too many promises he can’t keep. Her mom lost her job recently, and there are stacks of bills marked “urgent” and “overdue.”

The bank keep calling about missed payments on the house mortgage. Sugar’s mom says she’ll pay it, but she doesn’t have the money. The day comes when they are evicted from their house. All their stuff gets piled outside.

Sugar and Reba—and the puppy—go stay with cousins, but the cousins don’t want a whole extra family in their house for long.

Sugar doesn’t tell anyone at school what is going on, but she feels like she has a sign over her head that says, “Homeless girl.”

She loves her mom and how strong she used to be, but Reba is sinking into depression. Sugar is going to have to be the one acting like a grown up. She’s really glad she has her puppy, Shush, at her side.

 

Genre: realistic fiction.

Grades 5-8.

 

Anna’s take on it:

This was a strong title on my fall booktalk list last year. The cute puppy on the cover makes it an easy sell. I can just hold it up in front of a class, and half the girls will be squealing, ready to read it. When I mention the puppy’s name, the room invariably fills with kids echoing, “Shush.” “Shush.” “Shush.”

Despite the cute puppy factor, this isn’t a light book. But it’s a thoughtful one, and the feedback I’ve heard from kids has been positive. Like Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw, the story helps readers gain empathy for families experiencing homelessness.