A Home for Goddesses and Dogs

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Humor, inclusion, kindness in heart-filled tale of grief.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Folklore about the moon, the fine points of knitting, and a lot of details about animal care are part of the story.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family, loyalty, courage, steadfastness, community -- and the healing power of all of them in overcoming grief and loss.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thirteen-year-old Lydia is coping with a lot, having spent the last few years as her terminally ill (but indomitable) mother's caregiver. Now uprooted and living with her mom's older sister, Aunt Brat, and her wife, Eileen, and their rambunctious rescue dog, she's doing her best to deal with it all. Her mother, remembered in flashback, is creative, funny, and wise in spite of the bad hand she's been dealt in life, and does her best to give Lydia the tools and skills she'll need in life. Aunt Brat and Eileen are a devoted couple and beloved members of their community. Most adults and kids are kind and welcoming, though one man, the uncle of Lydia's friend, is scary and threatening. A young girl with cognitive disabilities is kind, loving, and a skilled caretaker of animals.

Violence

The death of Lydia's mom, a few days before the story begins, is not unexpected due to her chronic heart disease, but it's traumatic to her loved ones. Two badly mutilated baby goats are abandoned at a feed store and face an uncertain fate; it's not clear how they got that way. A man uses his vehicle to intimidate Lydia's dog, and he threatens to shoot him. In the past, vandals caused the death of a character's beloved goats. A woman who used to operate a puppy mill and was jailed for animal cruelty describes the way she treated her "property" and is trying to get her dogs back.

Sex

Thirteen-year-old girls discuss whether they want to kiss boys or girls. A growing attraction between a teen boy and girl leads to a kiss.

Language

Occasional "damn," "darn," mention of butts, plus a lot of poop and pee (mostly from a dog). One "scumbucket."

Consumerism

Lydia loves the girl on the Sun-Maid raisin box because she looks like Lydia's mom when she was young and healthy. Some scene-setting mention of real brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, by Leslie Connor, is the story of 13-year-old Lydia's adjustment to a new life, with her aunt and the aunt's wife, in the wake of her mother's death. She's had a lot of heavy stuff to deal with all her life: When she was 6, her father ditched her and her mother, unable to cope with her mother's failing health from heart disease, and in the years since she's been her mom's main caregiver. Despite the bad hand they've been dealt, though, they have a lot of joy in their lives, especially the art-project "goddesses" they create from old photos, and now the "goddesses" are all Lydia's got left of her mom. There's a lot of sweetness, wisdom, kindness, and humor as she adjusts to her new life, which includes the worst-behaved, poopingest, peeingest dog ever. Some discussion of kissing, including some after the fact. Some baby goats are badly mutilated and there's a struggle to save them. A man threatens to shoot a dog.

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What's the story?

A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS opens as 13-year-old Lydia, whose mom has just died, shares a car ride with her Aunt Brat (her "last of kin") to the Connecticut village where she's going to live with Brat and her wife, Eileen. And, as it turns out, a sweet but colossally ill-behaved rescue dog. All she has of her old life is her memories, a lot of her late mom's wisdom, kindness, and creativity, and a box full of the artistically embellished antique photos known as the "goddesses." It's all a big change, including going to the village school, making friends, and getting to know the community -- most of whom are kind, supportive, and loving, but some are more scary.

Is it any good?

There's a lot of heart, humor, and emotional nuance in Leslie Connor's tale of a newly orphaned 13-year-old coming to terms with a life very different from the one she shared with her mom. Just like in real life, the events, characters, and feelings in A Home for Goddesses and Dogs don't always line up neatly, but love, family, friendship, creative thinking -- and dogs -- are powerful forces in dealing with what real life dishes out. 

"The first week in January was the week Mom had always started writing down her spring dreams. 'Lydia, you should start a moon journal.' She'd liked to nudge me, always with her wry smile that said, I know you're not going to do this -- and you don't have to. (I was not so devoted.) Then just last week she'd amended the old nudge. 'You could write it in the way of memories.' I didn't disagree. But talking about it gave me worry. Each mention of that word -- memories -- was like fast-forwarding to the day I wouldn't have her anymore.

"This day."

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories of newly orphaned kids and how they cope. Why do you think this theme resonates so strongly with audiences over the centuries? Do you have any favorite orphan tales? How does A Home for Goddesses and Dogs compare with them?

  • Part of the story involves using 3D printing. Have you tried this? Would you like to? What would you like to make?

  • Do you have a pet with a disability, or know one? How do they cope? Have you found ways to make things easier for them?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love tales of grief and dogs

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