Carry Me Home by Janet Fox

Carry Me Home by Janet Fox. Simon & Schuster, 2021. 9781534485082

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  Twelve-year-old Lulu, her daddy, and her little sister Serena have been living in a Suburban truck in a Montana RV park as they try to get back on their feet; the mountain of medical bills and overwhelming sadness resulting from the death of Lulu’s mother have driven them from their Texas home.  Lulu is doing everything she can to help Daddy: going with him to the food bank and laundromat each Saturday, entertaining and caring for Serena while Daddy goes to work.  But one morning, shortly after school has started, the girls wake up and find that Daddy is gone.  Lulu is hesitant to tell anyone for fear of being separated from Serena, and she’s sure Daddy will come back any day.  She manages to maintain the illusion for quite some time, going through the routines and making sure Serena gets to and from school safely.  School is tough for Lulu; she is a good student but is targeted by some unkind classmates, and her worry about her father and their future  is eating away at her.  She is befriended by Jack, who finds out that she loves to sing and encourages her to try out for the school musical.  Soon money runs out, winter sets in, and Serena gets sick, and many of the adults in Lulu’s life are suspicious about her situation.  Lulu knows she needs to find a way to get some help; he has to learn to trust, and she has to allow herself to feel.  

Short chapters carry the plot of this heartrending book along, making it readable in nearly one sitting. The family backstory is gradually revealed throughout the book in chapters titled “Before,” which deal with the aftermath of the mother’s death, and “Way Before,” in which Lulu lovingly remembers her mother when she first got sick, while the present action is told in the chapters titled “Now.”  Lulu is a valiant heroine whom readers will both relate to and empathize with, and she is surrounded by many admirable people in her new hometown who want to help her if only she will let them.   The author does not flinch about the harsh realities of homelessness, or how easy it might be for a family to fall into hard times, and the resolution is highly satisfying without being phony or unbelievable; the audience who has been rooting for this family throughout the book will breathe a sigh of relief.  

Anything you did not like about the book? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers in grade 3 and up who enjoy realistic fiction by authors like Cynthia Rylant, Barbara O’Connor, and Deborah Wiles 

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: October 15, 2021

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