Almost Home

Almost Home

4.6 92
by Joan Bauer

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Twelve-year-old Sugar Mae Cole has had to act older than her age ever since her beloved grandfather died, and her father abandoned Sugar and her mother, Reba, yet again. But when they lose their house, Sugar must summon additional strength as she and Reba face homelessness. “Before all this happened/ I wasn’t brave like I am now./ I didn’t know I could take care of my mother/ or pee by the side of the road/ and not get my underpants wet,” writes Sugar, a talented poet. She relies on her poetry, along with support from a loving foster family and a favorite teacher, when the stress of their circumstances drives Reba to a serious breakdown. Bauer (Close to Famous) explores a timely issue through the eyes of a resilient girl—the kind of heroine so familiar to Bauer’s fans. Sugar’s anger, fear, humility, and resolve are portrayed with insight and compassion. Bauer also brings moments of levity and hopefulness to the story, which she peppers with a cast of thoughtfully crafted personalities. Ages 10–up. Agent: George Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Almost Home by Joan Bauer

"Sugar's voice is convincing, both as storyteller and young writer; her natural good humor shines through what could be a sad story indeed. Quirky supporting characters—both human and dog—add to its appeal. Sugar...will win readers hearts." —Kirkus, starred review

"sure to inspire" —Library Media Connection, starred review

"Bauer's trademark humor lightens the serious subject matter, while Sugar's frank honesty will give young readers a glimpse at a situation affecting a growing number of children." —Booklist

“Sugar's anger, fear, humility, and resolve are portrayed with insight and compassion.” —Publishers Weekly

“a memorable novel” —School Library Journal

“Almost Home… skillfully tells the tale of precocious and street-smart Sugar Mae Cole.” —New York Times Book Review

“While Bauer fans will definitely want to get their paws on this one, there's plenty of realism here to draw a wider crowd.” —BCCB

Kirkus Reviews
Through months of homelessness and her mother's breakdown, sixth-grader Sugar Mae Cole and her puppy, Shush, demonstrate what it means to be sweet. Newbery Honor winner Bauer (Hope Was Here, 2000) has created one of her strongest young women yet in the character of Sugar, writer of thank-you notes and poetry, dog-walker, parent-educator and trust-trainer. Her chronological first-person narration works, with notes, emails and poems to document the pain of dealing with an unreliable father, the difficulty of leaving a familiar home and beloved teacher, and the conflicted feelings of a child in a good foster-care situation. Sugar's mother, Reba, has trusted her gambling husband too many times. Can Reba develop the strength to resist him? Luckily, this resilient child has always had the support of other adults: first her grandfather, King Cole; then Mr. B., the sixth-grade teacher who encourages her writing and stays in touch; and, finally, Lexie and Mac, experienced foster parents who provide a safe haven but know when to let go. Sugar's voice is convincing, both as storyteller and young writer; her natural good humor shines through what could be a sad story indeed. Quirky supporting characters--both human and dog--add to its appeal. Sugar, with her natural gift for rubbing down imperfections, will win readers' hearts. (Fiction. 9-13)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—When Sugar Mae Cole is given a small, discarded puppy named Shush, she decides that he will become a helper dog. And help he does throughout her ordeal of losing her house, her mom's spiraling depression, moving from a small Missouri town to Chicago, and living in foster care. Sugar appreciates the importance of writing, which she learned from Mr. Bennett, her slightly eccentric but astute and talented sixth-grade teacher and from her mom, who has always emphasized the importance of writing thank-you notes. Her narration effectively includes her poetry, emails, thank-you notes, and reflections to reveal a resilient, thoughtful girl. As her name suggests, she tries to bring "a little sweetness into people's lives… [but, she knows] sweet doesn't mean stupid." Her philosophy, that if one "looks hard enough, there's always something to be grateful for," is especially hard to abide after her grandfather dies and her father takes off again, leaving a huge gambling debt. The conclusion is hopeful and satisfying. Though Sugar is still in a foster home, she and Shush become catalysts that empower Reba to stand up to her twice-ex-husband, help friends revitalize a business, and more. In her correspondence with Mr. Bennett, Sugar begins to feel ready to start a new life in seventh grade. Told with humor and pathos, the narrative is full of quirky, likable characters, all of whom are three-dimensional. Sugar's writing is sophisticated and touching, appropriate for a child who is thrust into an adult role. Altogether, a memorable novel that is sure to have broad appeal.—Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.84(w) x 8.36(h) x 0.98(d)
590L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

Read an Excerpt

I had a long night. I kept getting out of bed and walking through the house, remembering when we moved here after Reba and Mr. Leeland got divorced the first time. I was in second grade, and King Cole and Reba scraped together all they had and bought this house together. We were so proud to have our own little place. We painted the front door emerald green. It wasn’t the best paint job, but I remember going through that door and feeling my life was fresh and new and all the shadows from Mr. Leeland’s gambling were behind us. King Cole and I painted the wooden fence white and we fixed the cement steps. Reba and I planted peonies in the garden, and she repaired the rips in the screen door with clear nail polish. Mr. Leeland lived with us a few times, but he never stayed for long. He only cared if there was food and beer in the refrigerator, but me, Reba, and King Cole took care of this house with everything we had.
            How could we be losing it?

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Close to Famous: Winner of the ALA Schneider Family Book Award, Christopher Award, Judy Lopez Memorial Prize, An Amazon Top Ten Middle Grade Book, a YALSA/ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick; Hope Was Here: Newbery Honor Book, Christopher Award, ALA Notable Book; Rules of the Road: Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Golden Kite Award, ALA Notable Book, Best Book for Young Adults.

Meet the Author

Joan Bauer has won critical acclaim for her many books, which include the Newbery Honor Book Hope Was Here as well as Rules of the Road, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Almost Home 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I' m reading this book right now. I am just kid but this book is overall the best I've read. The author is a very good at what she does. I need to read more of her books. Even though I have not yet finished this book, but I encourge anyone to read it. The poems in this book are vert meaningfull!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am just ten years old and it is the best i have ever read!!!!!!You would love it !!!!!!!!!!I plan on reading all of her books.It is worth that much money!!!!!!!!!If you get it I hope you enjoy it!!!!!!!!!:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sugar Mae Cole has always been a girl who knows how to look on the bright side.But when she loses her home and ends up in foster care,she wonders if shell ever see the bright side again.Luckily,Sugar Mae is a girl who wont give up on her dreams for long!A novel with an attitude for gratitude!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like poems dogs and a heart warming story this is for you
federo999 More than 1 year ago
This book vividly illustrates what a child goes through when she is made to be the adult in a relationship. All she wants is to be normal and have a normal life as a kid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Almost Home by Joan Bauer “They can take away your house, but they can’t take away your hope.”  Do you enjoy heart-breaking stories that somehow turn out or hopeful people with a great personality?  Joan Butler creates an inspiring, well-written book that you won’t be able to put down called Almost Home.   Sugar Mae Cole, the protagonist, learns to live her life taking care of her mother more than her mother takes care of her.  Sugar’s father, Mr. Leeland, the antagonist, was a gambler and Sugar wasn’t loyal to him (because he is a rude liar).  Reba, Sugar’s mother, soon divorced him when she realized that they can’t live off of silly games.  Because of Reba’s little paying job as a cleaner, they couldn’t cover the full payment of their house, so the bank took it away from them. With all that happens, Sugar could lose hope, but instead, she expresses her feelings in poems.  She was taught by her beloved teacher, Mr. Bennett, whom she keeps in touch with when they have to leave town because of the home conflict. Reba and Sugar head to Chicago hoping their bad luck is behind them, but more is to come.  Reba has a break down and is sent to the hospital for depression.  Sugar is left on her own, but her rescue dog, Shush, keeps her hopeful as she is transferred from foster home to foster home. I was touched right on the heart when I read Almost Home and realized that I was so lucky to have a safe home and enough money to stay in my home.  Sugar’s life was hard; it was like swimming against the waves, but they wouldn’t let her pass them.  I adored the book, the most heart-wrenching, tragic moments led to the most hopeful and joyful.  I loved how the author expressed the feelings of the characters with realism.  The book wasn’t just a have-fun extravaganza; it gave a message to all the readers who picked it up. I would recommend this mind-filling story to any 10-15 year old girl, women too (possibly boys) who love puppies and love to see a girl go through hard times in her life, but also watch her grow and realize all of life’s  possibilities.  The genre of this book is realistic fiction, with the theme, ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight’.  Sugar and Reba fall down in their lives more times than I can count, but they will always stand back up, whatever the circumstance may be. -Liza Neely Bauer, Joan. Almost Home. New York: Viking, 2012. Print
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it defanatly thouched my heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JB describes,in high detail,the life of a girl who goes through heck,all b/c of her " Dad".This book is simular to my situation,except for a few factors. First her dad just leaves her & her mom.Then the rest of her family turns away from her.They head to Chigago,where one of her friebds,so called,lives.Her friend said they could live with her,but her number is. Disconnected.So they live on the streets .and her mom has a panic attack and her mom goes to the hospital b/c she is seriously ill,and she goes to foster care until shes better.....FIND OUT WHAT IS NEXT MWAHAHAHA })
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best book ever from the first line to the last word. I LOVED it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a really funny and heart warming tale of a girl who gets put into foster care while her mom is sick and she helps her new neighbors learn how to be bold.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the sweetest combination of what it feels like to be left out or in a new place, missing someone, and growing up. I can totally relate to that. This is a must read for all 9-13 year old girls!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an inspiring heartfelt novel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has taught me a lot about trust, hope, and faith. I think this is the best of Joan sonfar and she will continue this journey<3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading it. I had to read it for my summer reading for school. The book is a great description of how tough life is and how it can get better at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an AMAZING book! It talks about the amazing story about Sugar Mae Cole. It has changed my whoes perspective about homeless people and foster care
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive read all the reviews and they all say it was really good. But what i need 2 know is: is it well written and is it worth the read? I reallly want 2 read it so just wondering. Ive read close 2 famous and i really liked it and i couldnt wait 2 read more of her work. I think she is an exelent writer so im hoping this 1 will be good 2;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Woah. I cannot believe how great this book is. I just finished it and loved it! Gaurentied you'll love it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is touching and inspiring me to write a good book like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great touching story and it is a great book book for people who like sweet stories about animals so i hope you enjoy this book as much as i did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book!! : )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wilk find out who yiu are and get you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Junk. Do not get.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book found it at the library and it looked apeeling. sad book. good for grades 4 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to get this book really bad! I loved the sample.