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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows what kinship care is like -- when a kid is placed with a family member when her parents can't care for her -- and what addiction rehab is. The story incudes what it's like for a kid to deal with a social service agency, case workers, a therapist. Lots of information about bird and dog behavior, and how to train a therapy dog. Some sentences in Spanish when Titi Silvia is speaking to Laura, either translated or understood from context. Gives a glimpse of how drug abuse can affect a family. Explains what sickle cell anemia is. Some legal and medical vocabulary, including a "guardian ad litem" (an adult legally appointed to act on behalf of a child or person considered not able to represent themself) and a "mediator." Some bird terms like "wigeons aka fancy Virginia ducks."
"Maybe sometimes you really can apologize/ and turn things around." Regarding her team of mediators and case workers, Laura asks, "Don't they get that Mom and Dad want to get better -- they just need some help?/ I believe in my parents. I do./So why can't they?" Laura views her new home with Titi Silvia, her new friend Benson, and even her beloved dog Sparrow as temporary. "The only permanent home is my mom and dad." When she's training her pup Sparrow to be a therapy dog, she says, "I think maybe this is a skill/we both need some practice with,/this watching people say goodbye/and believing in them enough/to calmly stay."
Positive Role Models
Benson is cheerful, friendly, and outgoing to Laura. He has sickle cell disease and misses school and has lost his old friends because of it. But he tries to be positive and is a good friend to Laura. His parents are kind and offer Laura support as well. Laura's aunt, Titi Silvia, seems distant at first ("I'm not a hugger"), has loads of rules, and is a busy doctor who spends little time at home, but she's also a good communicator, knows how to sincerely apologize, and shows Laura she loves her and has her best interests at heart. Laura doesn't think much of her first case worker, Janet, but she feels heard and understood by her second one, Brenda. Her homeroom teacher, Ms. Holm, the school librarian, Mrs. Elsa, and her therapist, Dr. Dash, connect with her, too.
Main character Laura's mother and aunt were born and raised in Puerto Rico, like author Andrea Beatriz Arango. Laura's mom and aunt, Titi Silvia, speak Spanish. Her dad is Puerto Rican-American, born in the U.S., and understands Spanish better than he speaks it. Benson, Laura's friend at her new school, is Black. Laura and Benson are both portrayed as very engaged in learning, especially about the things they're interested in, like dogs and birds. When Laura is curious about something, she looks it up on the internet. Differences in economic and social status play a role in the story. Laura and her parents lived in a trailer and ran a food truck. Her Titi Silvia is a doctor who works in a hospital and lives in a nice apartment in a nicer town in the county, with a nicer school for Laura to attend. Her team of mediators and caseworkers, her therapist, and the school librarian and schoolmates identify themselves with the pronouns they use (she/her, he/him, they/them). It's revealed that Laura's mom left her family in Puerto Rico after they kicked her out for wanting to date a girl.
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Products & Purchases
The school librarian, Mrs. Elsa, passes Laura some graphic novels to read that she really connects with: Guts by Raina Telegemeir, The Okay Witch, by Emma Steinkellner, Manu by Kelly Fernandez, Saving Chupie by Amparo Ortiz. Laura frequently and quickly solves the Rubik's Cube puzzle. References to Laura's school-provided Chromebook laptop computer. One-time mentions of Google Chrome, Spam, Cheez Whiz, iPad, Legos.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References to Laura's parents having a substance-abuse issues and being in rehab. But no specific drugs are mentioned, only "pills." A headline on one page is "My Mom Tried to Get Clean Once," and the verse below includes the line "The problem was Dad was still doing stuff." Laura offers a kid's-eye-view of her parents' addiction: "I didn't get taken away 'cause they hurt me/or they're bad./They just have a problem,/an addiction,/that sometimes makes them forget/other things in their life." She's curious about what drug rebab is like so looks up videos on YouTube, but asks, "Where are the videos of kids like me?/Where are the videos that will explain/why Benson can take medicine for his pain/ and be totally fine,/but my parents got addicted,/couldn't stop,/even though the'yre big and strong?"
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Something Like Home, by Newbery Honor author Andrea Beatriz Arango (Iveliz Explains It All) is a poignant, powerful novel in free verse about an 11-year-old girl who's sent to live with her aunt while her parents are in rehab for drug abuse. It deals with serious issues like kinship care, social service agencies and case workers, and therapy. But it's also a sweet story about friendship and family and a found dog that helps make the hard stuff bearable. There are references to what happened before the story starts: that main character Laura's parents both had drug abuse issues, and when she discovered them at home unresponsive, she called 911, which led to them being separated from her and sent to rehab.
Is It Any Good?
This brilliant, compelling story captures the fear, frustration, and hope of a middle schooler torn from the parents she loves who have serious issues of their own. Something Like Home deals with the effects of substance abuse on a family -- and a kid's guilt for having alerted authorities. But her well-drawn mixed emotions ring true and relatable for anyone who's dealt with being the new kid in school, being wary of opening up to new friends, or grappling with adjusting to two homes or new caregivers following divorce.
The first-person, diary-like narrative helps readers be on Laura's side from the get-go. And the novel-in-verse format leaves lots of space on each page, helping the pages fly by. Laura's letters to her parents -- including ones she didn't mail -- add another element of heartfelt emotional truth. The storyline about Laura's found puppy, her descriptions of wild birds' behavior, her communication with seemingly distant Titi Silvia and new friend Benson add more layers to understanding who she is, how she feels, and what she wants. This profound book gets in the heart and head of an 11-year-old facing big challenges, who makes mistakes but is driven by love and hope. Laura's story will linger in readers' hearts and minds long after they close the book.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.