A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paul Griffin's When Friendship Followed Me Home, a story laced with hardship and loss, is set in the scrappy reaches of Brooklyn and narrated by Ben, a boy who's bounced around the foster care system. And though he finally lands a loving mom and happy home, they're abruptly yanked away. He's also threatened with the loss of his closest friend, who wears pink wigs and kicky berets because she's undergoing chemo. But the book's never maudlin. Ben and best friend Halley bond over books in the library where Halley's mom is the librarian, and they field all serious challenges lobbed at them with grace and humor, taking pleasure in Ben's funny dog and in each other. The sad story manages to be uplifting, and readers will be happy to spend time with these characters.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ben, the narrator in WHEN FRIENDSHIP FOLLOWED ME HOME, has had a hard-knock life. He's been a foster child until age 10, when he was adopted by a lesbian single mom, and the stability of that loving home is upended abruptly when he's 12. He also meets and gets close to the daughter of his local branch librarian, and though Halley is undergoing chemo treatments for cancer, the two manage to train Ben's dog to be a therapy dog and set up a program in the library to help kids struggling to read. Though Ben experiences multiple losses, he's sustained by the closeness of his friendship and tethered to life by his dog Flip, a stray who followed him home, and by Halley's parents, who open their home and hearts to him in his time of need.
Is it any good?
Readers will love spending time with these smart, funny, relatable characters who display grace under fire even when they're put through the emotional wringer of serious loss. Ben, the extremely likable narrator, tells his story in a wry, self-deprecating, highly entertaining voice, and his story grips us. Ben's already had a challenging life when he's called upon to absorb multiple losses, and his best friend Halley has to deal with a life-threatening rare cancer. Though these characters have lives laced with sadness, readers might find themselves envying them, because through it all, they have each other.
The fast-paced story takes place over two short months, and some readers who've experienced loss may feel that Ben skips essential stages of grief, specifically the one where grief kicks you in the stomach and doesn't let you up for months. But this page-turning, emotionally resonant story provides reassurance that we're all loved and cared for -- by our loved ones here, by those who've passed on, and by sweet, slobbery strays who follow us home, giving life pleasure and meaning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about loss. How many losses has Ben experienced? Have you had loss in your life? How has it affected you?
How does Ben's dog Flip help him? How does he help the kids who are learning to read?
How does the story Ben and Halley write together mirror their own lives and reflect their circumstances?
- Author: Paul Griffin
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: June 7, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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