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Almost Home Hardcover – September 13, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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

About 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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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (September 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670012890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670012893
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Bauer has won numerous awards for her twelve (soon to be thirteen) novels for young readers, among them, the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award, two Christopher Awards, the LA Times Book Prize, the Chicago Tribune Young adult Literary Prize, the Golden Kite Award of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and most recently, the St. Katherine Drexel Award of the Catholic Library Association. A NY Times Best-selling author, speaker, and songwriter, she has been a guest on local and national radio shows, and she has been sent to both Croatia and Kazakhstan by the State Department as part of its Professional Speakers Program to speak at schools, universities, libraries, and writers' groups. 

Joan has also been a recipient of the Judy Lopez Memorial Award; the ASTAL Award for Outstanding Contributions to Literature for Young People; the Michigan Thumbs-up! Award for Children's Literature; the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel; the Pacific Northwest Library Association Award; the New Jersey Reading Association M. Jerry Weiss Award; the New England Booksellers Award; and the Boston Public Library's "Literary Light" Award. Her novels have been nominated extensively for state book awards, in addition to appearing on  ALA Notable Books, ALA Best Books, ALA Quick Picks, American Bookseller Pick of the List, School Library Journal Best Books, Smithsonian Notable Children's Books, VOYA's Perfect 10s. Her novel Rules of the Road was chosen as one of the top young adult books of the quarter century by the American Library Association. Her thirteenth novel, Soar, will be published in January 2016.

Joan is a member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Authors Guild, PEN, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Evan and their intrepid wheaten terrier Max. She enjoys cooking, playing the piano, hiking, songwriting, and ice skating (as long as she has enough time for a slow stop).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's very interesting to me that all of the reviews are positive for this book. And there are a lot of positives about it. Joan Bauer is a good writer and it's a well written book. The plot moves along, the characters are interesting, and it would resonate with a lot of kids.

When I was teaching middle school English, I would have assigned this book to my class. I know I would have. There is very little character description, so readers will make their own minds up about what the characters look like. I had many students who lived through situations similar to what the girl in this story, Sugar, walks through.

But, as a homeschooling mom, I'm not going to assign this book to my children. There are a couple of reasons. Because I homeschool, I can shelter my kids and let them be kids. I know they have to tackle and understand the hard stuff of the world, but the big question I face is when and how. Books tackle difficult subjects differently. Some address the tough stuff of life. Some can plant ideas in kids heads (depending on who the kids is). Some are persuasive about life issues. Some are objective and simply tell a story--leaving the moral evaluation up to the reader. I did read this entire book. After the first half, I was willing to let my daughter read it. I knew I would need to process through it because there is a slew of difficult emotional issues in it--abandonment by a parent, neglect, poverty, homelessness, peer pressure, teasing, and death of a loved one. But, then I read two pages that it took it off the reading list for my kids. It was the discussion of depression and her mom's time in the hospital after she breaks down. She asks the question to herself of whether it could happen to her.
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Format: Hardcover
I like this author's books very much, so I was happy to read her latest. Sugar Mae Cole is trying to keep it together, but life is falling apart for her and her mother--with no help from Sugar's unreliable, mostly-absent father, who has a gambling addiction. Sugar's mother is sweet, but starts to lose it when she and Sugar are evicted. Pretty soon the two of them are in Chicago, homeless.

Sugar has a lovely if slightly unusual support system. Even after she leaves town, her English teacher Mr. Bennett is there for her. "E-mail me," he says, and eventually she does. Then Sugar finds a frightened puppy and manages to keep it even when she gets dropped into the foster care system. A group home is rough, but she ends up with a couple who are kind to her. This doesn't go over well with her mother, who is still in a shelter, still struggling. Sugar handles her divided loyalties as best she can. She also helps her fearful puppy, too, reassuring herself at the same time. Slowly, Sugar's life takes on a new shape.

Bauer may be prone to overly tidy endings, but I'm good with that. I believe a children's book should end on a note of hope--as long as it's not sicky-sweet. Sugar's life has improved by the last page, but it's still not going to be an easy road. Sugar is a thoroughly likable character, and I'm rooting for her all the way into that fictional future of hers. Bauer's portrait of homelessness may end more happily than most such scenarios in the lives of actual children, but it will certainly clue young readers in to how hard it is to be poor and adrift. That kind of empathy will serve them well in this life where so many people are in difficult situations.
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Format: Hardcover
Possibly the cutest book cover ever.

Sugar and her puppy Shush are trying to hold the family together as Sugar's mom Reba falls apart. Dad's not in the picture, and Reba has always lived in a bit of dreamland. Sugar's been the one to face facts, using poetry and creative thank you notes to express herself. When they lose their house, Sugar changes schools and loses her connection to a supportive teacher (although they can still email). Luckily she finds other adults who can help her. I found Sugar a little pushy and demanding, but she's got a lot going on in her life for someone in 6th grade, so I cut her some slack. The ending, as Sugar starts 7th grade in a new school is hopeful without being overly sweet. Lots of humor in this book, though sometimes it struck me as odd, like when an old dog passes away, or when her no-good father tries to get back with mother. I think BEST FOOT FORWARD and RULES OF THE ROAD (both also by Bauer, and easy to suggest to 7th graders) are better books. This one hits a slightly younger audience (5th graders) and the puppy on the cover says "Pick Me Up" to every reader who walks by. MIddle school readers wanting more books on children parenting their parents might try WAITING FOR NORMAL by Lesli Connor(5th/6th grade) and DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu (7th/8th grade)

About me: I'm a middle school/high school librarian
How I got this book: purchased for the library
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a church librarian, I'm always looking for quality books for children - whether deeply religious or just about true life lessons. Character, Sugar has a lot on her shoulders with the loss of her grandfather, a deadbeat father and a mother with mental and esteem issues. She sticks with her mom no matter what her circumstances. It would be easy to take on the life of a foster child and turn away from her mother. But the story captures Sugar doing the best she can no matter her environment. I truly read every poem because there were deep feelings in the poems and that was a huge part of the story. I too lived in a situation that was not ideal as a child, but with God's love, I went on to be a successful woman, wife and mother. As I read the book, I thought of all the children living in a car or in a shelter. As Coordinator of our Quilt Ministry, I thought of all of the baby blankets our group make to help offer comfort and hope to children. This book truly shows the strength of Sugar and her endurance to be successful in life. Thanks to teacher, Mr. B, Sugar has an adult as a positive roll model and offers her encouragement and to pursue her talents. HIGHLY recommended for all church libraries.
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