When Friendship Followed Me Home

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
When Friendship Followed Me Home Book Poster Image
Gripping, heartwarming story of foster boy's serious loss.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Promotes reading, with scenes set pointedly in library and bookstores. Names and talks about content of specific books, such as Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, The Little Prince, Jane Eyre, and more. Information about early 20th-century history of Coney Island's Luna Park. Some medical information about the kind of cancer Halley has, rhabdomyosarcoma, and chemotherapy. Information on dogs as therapy animals.

Positive Messages

Even if we lose people dear to us, it's better to connect and love. When we have loss, there are others who come into our lives to comfort us. People we lose are still with us, watching over us. You don't have to have a lot of money to have a tight, loving family. Giving service to others is satisfying and enriching.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Ben experiences the loss of people extremely close to him, he's enriched by their love and closeness and finds pleasure and comfort in the time they spent together. Halley is upbeat despite battling cancer and getting sick from chemotherapy. Ben's mom and Halley's parents freely shower their kids with love and support though they lack many financial resources. Ben, Halley, Ben's mom, and Halley's parents are all loving, caring people who extend themselves and serve others.

Violence

Aunt who takes in Ben has boyfriend who kicks dog hard and hits Ben in face, leaving a welt. Deaths of two characters who are very close to the main character.

Sex

Characters who've grown close and have a strong relationship share a sweet kiss. Ben's middle school male friend watches girls' butts and talks about their "chestal areas."

Language
Consumerism

Products mentioned: iPad, Chips Ahoy!, Cap'n Crunch, Skittles, Dunkin' Donuts, Cheez-Its, M&M's.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Aunt's boyfriend resumes drinking after period of abstinence, causing problems.

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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKELLYE 2 March 16, 2018

Good Mark Twain nominee, lots of emotion

Some of the body talk and other rough subjects will make an adult cringe, but this story might bring a tear to your eye and keep you wanting more
Adult Written bydenise951 July 10, 2018

Very sweet

Child in the foster system, a stray dog, another child dying of cancer. Sounds like a real tear jerker, and it is. It is also a story of love, hope, and resil... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byfartnugget2.0 August 6, 2018

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?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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