Sugar's is a story of resilience and hope!


Almost Home is a moving and powerful story about a girl fighting against all the odds. Sugar Mae Cole grew up in Missouri with her mother, grandfather, and her mostly absent, gambling father, who she calls "Mr. Leeland." Sugar’s life turns upside down when her grandfather dies, her father leaves again (taking all of their money), and she and her mom Reba are evicted from the only home she’s ever known. Reba takes Sugar to Chicago to find a new life for themselves.

Things turn out to be much more difficult than they thought. They are homeless, Reba's depression lands her in a mental health facility, and Sugar is placed with a foster family. With the encouragement of a teacher, Sugar starts writing poetry to work through the adversity and emotional trauma she has dealt with. Reflecting on all that has happened Sugar realizes that she has come through a lot and is a much stronger person because of it.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (17):
Bauer’s simple, dare I say "sweet," writing style encapsulates the struggle and beauty in Sugar’s story very well. Sugar writes several poems throughout the course of the story that are brimming with raw emotions. Life lessons are beautifully integrated into every moment of Sugar’s journey: her grandfather’s autobiography, her mother, even other people in her life. Sugar manages to touch the heart of every person she meets and it’s no wonder why. She goes out to show everyone what sweetness truly is, despite her sour circumstances.

Almost Home is a novel that is capable of opening people’s eyes to the realities of homelessness and showcasing the power of resilience in the face of adversity. Bauer paints a somewhat rosy experience of homelessness and avoids graphic content and language as much as possible. That makes it suitable for younger readers, but not so much for older teens like me. For these reasons, I would suggest Almost Home to anyone 11 years or older. Bauer’s book would make a great gift to dog lovers and fans of realistic fiction everywhere. 

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers who like transformative, realistic fiction will find Sugar's a compelling story. It is well written and offers insight into worlds most preteens have never seen so realistically. The book is thought-provoking and leaves readers with a sense of hope, still thinking about Sugar even after the story is done.

Content Awareness Factors:

There are references to gambling, alcohol use, and other social ills. The plot also contains drug use, but it is not represented in detail or graphically.

Type of Book:
This middle-grade novel shares the story of a young girl's resilience and growth.
Educational Themes:

Although most of the elements in the story center around Sugar and her personal journey, there are also broader themes of abusive parents (Sugar's father, the puppy's father), homelessness, foster care, and mental illness. There is a lot to explore and discuss, which makes this an exceptional choice for a classroom read aloud or youth book club.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
11 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
12 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 17
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow, for sure.

Title Almost Home
Author Joan Bauer
Publisher Puffin Books, a Penguin Random House Company © 2013 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780142427484
Material Paperback
Cost $7.99
Genres Family, Family - Grandparents, Social Issues
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