Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Baskin reprises many elements of her first novel, What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows, in this less dramatic but still poignant story. Sixth-grader Leah, the narrator, has an exceptionally complicated family history, to the extent that she does not fully disclose her real circumstances until midway through the novel. Readers gradually learn that she has been returned to the custody of her father when Karen, her "mother" (in fact, her stepmother), abruptly moved to California with her new boyfriend and Leah's half-sister, Anne. Rather than dwelling on the complex, ultimately unanswerable questions of why Leah was left by her father (after his divorce from Karen) and then by Karen, the author focuses on the day-to-day conflicts Leah experiences in a new household. Without Anne, and without her personal belongings (which were not moved to her father's house), Leah feels bereft, and she finds it particularly difficult to warm up to her father's new wife, Gail, a lawyer turned perfect housewife and the complete opposite of Karen. An exceptionally kind boy named Will reaches out to Leah and, as their friendship blossoms, Leah begins to accept changes one step at a time. The supporting characters-Will and Gail among them-seem a little too good to be true, and yet Leah herself is so convincing and stirring that readers will want to believe she has landed among such stalwart, caring people. Baskin's delicate exposition of emotionally fraught terrain will likely evoke strong responses from her preadolescent audience. Ages 10-13. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Almost Home is a great story about a girl who has to find her place at home and in life. I really enjoyed this story because it depicts realistic events. The book can especially benefit kids who are dealing with their parents' divorce or just getting used to staying with one or the other. The focus isn't just on the divorce though, and it keeps life in perspective, showing other things that happen as well. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2002, Little Brown, 173p,
— Jasmine Williamson, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Sixth-grader Leah's sense of self is badly shaken when she learns that her mother's weeks-long silence has been hiding a cross-country move that doesn't include her. The fact that her "mother" is actually her stepmother is only gradually revealed to readers. As Leah starts to let go of her bitterness, she makes tentative progress toward a solid relationship with her father and a restored sense of who she is. The strengths of the book are Leah's well-developed character and the realistic nastiness she displays as an outlet for her misery. Her inability to focus on schoolwork and her purposeful attempts to wound her father's new wife both help to capture the extent of her loss. The close friendship she forms with a boy is less convincing, given sixth-grade social norms. In addition, her father is drawn as a puzzlingly positive character, which seems at odds with her previous lack of relationship with him. Readers who enjoy quiet stories of personal growth will likely overlook these slightly implausible plot elements and respond to Leah's journey as she seeks a place to belong.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixth-grader Leah Baer knows immediately that something is wrong when her psychologist father, who has trouble expressing himself, picks her up from summer camp. She moves in with her father and his wife, Gail, while her mother and younger sister, Anne, now live across the country in California. As Leah tries to cope with her mounting incomplete schoolwork, writes unanswered letters to her mother, tests boundaries with Gail, and befriends Will, another loner, readers gradually learn about the woman who raised Leah after her mother died and about her inseparable bond with her sister. Although Leah does not always understand the ways of the world, she begins to accept those who love her and become part of a new family and home. Continuing themes established in What Every Girl (except me) Knows (2001), Baskin creates a perfect tween voice in Leah, whose painfully real emotions and reactions help her find solace in an imperfect world. Heart-wrenching, bittersweet, and genuine to the very end. (Fiction. 10-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316010283
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
09/07/2005
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Almost Home


By Nora Raleigh Baskin

LB Childrens

Copyright © 2003 Nora Raleigh Baskin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0316093130


Chapter One

The bus ride was making me sick. Mrs. Thomsen said it was only a half an hour to the Roosevelt Mansion, but I think we'd been on the bus for an hour already. Everybody had their windows open, but mine was stuck and I didn't want to ask anyone for help.

I didn't know anybody. So I just looked out the window. I was thinking of everything that, if I could, I would tell my mother. I would tell her about this field trip, and my new teacher, and everything I was seeing on this bus ride. The clanking metal bridge we just crossed and the motorboats in the water below. I thought, not that long ago, only Indians would be paddling canoes on this wide, clear, quiet Hudson River. I would tell my mother how I could almost see what it must have looked like then, without the rusty, iron docks, before the trails of gasoline. She would like that. I took it all into my mind, like a movie I was watching, and I imagined telling her all about everything, every detail, every comment. I imagined her listening, nodding and approving.

The bus drove through Poughkeepsie. We were definitely in a city now. I kept my focus out the window. Maybe I'd forget I didn't belong here. Maybe something would look familiar.

After all, we used to live around here, on the other side of the river, before my mom and dad got divorced. We lived in New Paltz, where I live now. Again. But we had only lived there one year, and I can hardly remember it at all. After the divorce, my mom and I moved to Woodstock. A year later we moved to Phoenicia. We only stayed there for a year. And then we moved to Shandaken. I went to three different schools in less than three years.

But it's my house in Shandaken that I miss the most. I dream about it. In my dream, I am walking around from room to room and everything is gone. The whole house is empty. It almost looks as if the windows and doors are missing, like one of those open-sided dollhouses. The walls are bare. The furniture and rugs and paintings are all gone, and the wallpaper is peeling, like it's been abandoned for years. When I wake up, I have this terrible feeling. It takes me a long time to shake it. Sometimes all morning.

That's not really what the house looked like when we lived there. It was full and warm. In the summer it seemed to grow right out of all the wild, thorny plants and bushes that surrounded it. In the winter, the woodstove poured out so much heat that we had to open the windows a little bit and let the frosty air in from outside. Then it would get too cold and we'd shut the windows again. By morning the stove had gone out, and it was just freezing. Freezing.

There were wide slate steps that led right up to the front door from the road below. You had to walk under a splintery, white wooden arch, so dripping with vines you had to push them away to walk through. The steps were steep and they wobbled if you didn't walk right up the center. The first step was cracked in half and the last step was almost completely missing.

We rented the house. There were only a couple of other houses on the road, but nobody lived in those houses in the winter the way we did. The kitchen had a backdoor and a wooden screen door that banged shut behind you. It led out to a little flat spot with dirt and some grass, and then up to the garden and our well, which was just a really deep hole in the ground covered by a piece of wire mesh. You could peer down into the darkness and hear the water rushing far below. You could drop a pebble in and listen for the splash. Then farther up were the woods, which seemed to lead out to the rest of the world. To history.

Or maybe that's just the way I remember it. Maybe because I always used to pretend I was a pioneer. Sometimes, I played by myself, but most of the time Anne came with me, even though she was five years younger. If she found me, she followed-and I usually let her find me.

We would walk up into the woods where there was nothing, nothing to remind us that it wasn't the olden days. There was even a mossy, stone wall winding around the trees and along the edges of hills. Somebody long ago had built that wall, stone by stone. We walked for miles like that, pretending we lived a hundred years ago. Playing.

We didn't play the way boys play, running around chasing each other, making shooting noises. It was more like walking, just walking and talking and making up our lives and adventures.

But when it was too cold out, or raining, or when we were just bored with the olden days, we played Little People. We played Little People with armless, legless Fisher-Price toys, miniature figures, even those plastic trolls with the big ears and bulging eyes. We played with anything and everything we had-blocks and books, shoe boxes, and toy cars.

We played until playing became more real than real was. And better, of course.



Excerpted from Almost Home by Nora Raleigh Baskin Copyright © 2003 by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Meet the Author

Nora Raleigh Baskin grew up in Brooklyn and New Paltz, New York. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two sons.

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Almost Home 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Avid_Reader101 More than 1 year ago
I never talk to my mom much and this book really helped me understand that this surcumstnce is not just for me but for millions of other girls out there. I hardly ever talk to my younger siblings and this book really helped me find a way to vent my feelings to the person i live most: write letters to my mom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was pleasently surprised with this book. I think it was well written and is a great quick read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This Book is awsome it helps me with my problems and conflicts. I will definetly read it to my children when I grow up. E-mail me if you want to talk about this awsome book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good book. I'm sure a lot of kids can relate to Leah. Higly recommended for pre-teens.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Almost Home is written by Nora Raleigh Baskin. This book is extraordinary and is highly recommended for summer reading for both girls and boys. This is Ms. Baskinâ¿¿s seconed novel. She has also created What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows. She grew up in New Paltz, NY, as well as in Brooklyn. The main character in this book is Leah Baer; she is twelve yeas old and lives in New Paltz, New York. One of the very important minor characters is Will Hiller, the only one who seems to like her. Leahâ¿¿s parents are divorced, and she is living with her father, and her stepmother. The genre of this book is realistic fiction. There are real places mentioned in the book that are here in New Paltz such as Huguenot Street and the Mohonk Mountains. The book was great and highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
BAskin really relates her main character Leah to any 6th grade girl. When i was in 6th grade i faced alot of the same struggles as Leah did. This book is one of my favorite books and i highly recommend it for anyone ages 9-15