Review Detail

Kids Fiction 136
Timely social issues... and dogs.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Piper's family has moved around a lot recently since her father is out of work. They've stayed with relatives, but have generally stayed in warm places-- Louisiana, Florida, Texas. Now, the family has landed in Idaho in a homeless shelter. Piper is embarrassed and not happy that her father has to stay in the men's shelter apart from them. Still, there are lots of things to be done to settle in, and the family sets up their rooms, finds a Community Kitchen for their meals, and get Piper enrolled in school. During their travels, they see a woman living on the streets with a small dog, and Piper is immediately drawn to Baby. Jewel is older and in poor health, and often confused, but other people help watch out for her, including Ree, who also has a dog. When Jewel is hospitalized, Baby is left alone. Ree takes care of her, and gives Piper and her father Jewel's knapsack for safekeeping. There is a Firefly Girl group that has meetings at Hope House, and Piper is glad for a familiar activity with other girls who are in similar circumstances. She befriends Karina, who also goes to her school, and finds a place to sit at lunch where she feels comfortable. She tries to visit Baby as often as possible, and she and her friends try to piece together some information about Jewell so they can get her the help she needs. They eventually find out that Jewel struggled with mental issues that required medication, and was on her way to stay with her sister in a pet friendly senior facility in Boise. With the help of the Firefly Girls' cookie fundraiser, money is raised to send Jewel and Baby to Boise. Piper's family is slowly getting back on their feet, and she is glad that she was able to help someone else.
Good Points
Piper's family is down on their luck, but still positive and working to make their lives better. The realities of living in a shelter, especially when other kids at school know you do, are unflinchingly portrayed, and reading about Piper's struggles will hopefully make children more empathetic. Jewel's journey to living on the streets with her beloved dog is also described in a way that shows how close many people are to being homeless-- just a small series of set backs can be all it takes. The community of homeless dog lovers is especially fascinating. This was just a well-written story with a fantastic combination of ingredients. Combined with the cover, it will circulate as well as Nielsen's No Fixed Address, which has been a runaway favorite in my library.

The one difficult part in the book was the Firefly Girls' cookie sale. Fund raisers are hard on any child, but seem like a bad idea with children living in a homeless shelter. It was fantastic to see them be willing to donate the money to someone less fortunate, though.

Like Bauer's Almost Home (2012), this will see steady circulation because it is interesting, fast paced, and still somehow heart-wrenching. Excellent book with such an appealing cover. There have been a number of books recently involving children dealing with homelessness, including Messner's The Exact Location of Home, Stevenson's Lizzie Flying Solo and Sarno's Just Under the Clouds as well as the Young Adult Roam by Armstrong. These books are a great way for readers to understand the difficulties some of their classmates may face and to build empathy.
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