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A Song Called Home

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From award-winning author Sara Zarr comes a story of the small moments that show us who we are, and how family is not just something you're part of, but something you make. Lou and her family don't have much, but for Lou it's enough. Mom. Her sister, Casey. Their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her From award-winning author Sara Zarr comes a story of the small moments that show us who we are, and how family is not just something you're part of, but something you make. Lou and her family don't have much, but for Lou it's enough. Mom. Her sister, Casey. Their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her and Casey, and if they didn't have to worry about money all the time. But Lou doesn't need better--she only needs enough. What's enough for Lou, however, is not enough for Mom. Steve, Mom's boyfriend, isn't a bad guy, he's just...not what Lou is used to. And now, he and Mom are getting married, and that means moving. Packing up life as they've known it and storing it in Steve's garage. Lou will be separated from everything in her small but predictable life, farther from Dad than ever. Their last night in the city, Lou receives a mysterious birthday gift: A guitar, left for her by their front door. There's nothing saying who left it, but it must be from Dad. And as she leaves the only place she's ever known, she starts to believe that if she can learn how to play it, maybe she can bring a piece of him, and of her old life, home.


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From award-winning author Sara Zarr comes a story of the small moments that show us who we are, and how family is not just something you're part of, but something you make. Lou and her family don't have much, but for Lou it's enough. Mom. Her sister, Casey. Their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her From award-winning author Sara Zarr comes a story of the small moments that show us who we are, and how family is not just something you're part of, but something you make. Lou and her family don't have much, but for Lou it's enough. Mom. Her sister, Casey. Their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her and Casey, and if they didn't have to worry about money all the time. But Lou doesn't need better--she only needs enough. What's enough for Lou, however, is not enough for Mom. Steve, Mom's boyfriend, isn't a bad guy, he's just...not what Lou is used to. And now, he and Mom are getting married, and that means moving. Packing up life as they've known it and storing it in Steve's garage. Lou will be separated from everything in her small but predictable life, farther from Dad than ever. Their last night in the city, Lou receives a mysterious birthday gift: A guitar, left for her by their front door. There's nothing saying who left it, but it must be from Dad. And as she leaves the only place she's ever known, she starts to believe that if she can learn how to play it, maybe she can bring a piece of him, and of her old life, home.

30 review for A Song Called Home

  1. 4 out of 5

    Belles Middle Grade Library

    This completed the contemporary book prompt for MG March! Wow. This was such a heartbreakingly beautiful & REAL story. Loved it. This was a hard 1, but important 1 for me personally to read. I knew this book would have an effect on me, but these are emotions & memories I always push back & don’t want to feel. I’ve learned from reading other contemporary books that I related to, that it helps in a way. So I decided it might be good for me. The dad in this book is an alcoholic. I grew up with an a This completed the contemporary book prompt for MG March! Wow. This was such a heartbreakingly beautiful & REAL story. Loved it. This was a hard 1, but important 1 for me personally to read. I knew this book would have an effect on me, but these are emotions & memories I always push back & don’t want to feel. I’ve learned from reading other contemporary books that I related to, that it helps in a way. So I decided it might be good for me. The dad in this book is an alcoholic. I grew up with an alcoholic stepdad(but with abusive to my mom added in). Anyway, the author does an amazing job writing everything that comes from being in that environment-very honest & very real. From friends parents not allowing them to spend the night at your house, to the constant eggshells you walk on..not know what 1 day to the next will bring..to the fear. I remember hiding under my bed when I was home alone with my older brother once when my stepdad came home drunk. My brother came & found me, took me to his room. He put me in his bed, & he slept on the floor. To the late nights, because something happens that wakes you up/keeps you up..like yelling, or him coming home drunk & loud. Like what the smell of alcohol does to you. All these years later, I can’t stand the smell of beer. It takes me right back there. The embarrassment when they make a scene in front of others, but also the protectiveness. This author nailed all of that & so much more. This was a double hit for me, because the feelings she has like:why doesn’t my dad love me enough or want to see me….is it my fault, what could I do to make him love me, make him SEE me..I had THOSE feelings about my real dad(not an alcoholic). So very hard read, since the author captured all of these things perfectly. It’s hard for me to go back there, but I think it’s important. The author captures the emptiness these things leave in a kid, & what it can do to a kid. I also loved the honesty & very real way the author shows how a kid may choose to handle these things like the MC does. It’s not the right way at all, but life isn’t always like the Brady Bunch. This also showed a very real portrayal of a newly blended family, & how that goes more often than not. This made the ending even more meaningful, but maybe even more importantly-BELIEVABLE. Because it shows that through all the hard times, & how hard blending families can be, that it can work out & be a great thing. So many amazing messages in here. It’s ok to cry, to ask for help, to say what you’re feeling. Also, as a kid..what your parents do or do not do is not your fault. If a parent is an alcoholic for example-that is not your fault. If a parent doesn’t see you or make time for you, that’s not your fault. All of that is on them. I also loved the very real sister relationship in here, & seeing how different both experiences were for them-whether with their feelings about their dad, to the new stepdad & moving, etc. This also makes me want to cry happy tears, thinking of the little me’s….kids like me or the MC in this book, that will feel seen in this. Not alone. It will help so much. This came out last week, & I highly recommend. BEAUTIFUL cover front & back by Yaoyao Ma Van As too.💜

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Louisa is not happy that her mother is marrying Steve, and moving her and her sister Casey from San Francisco to Pacifica. At least they get to stay at their schools, although this involve a lengthy car rides each day. It doesn't help that their mother doesn't want to give their father the address of Steve's house, since he is an alcoholic who occasionally shows up and causes commotion. Louisa misses being able to walk to her friend Beth Tsai's house, and struggle E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Louisa is not happy that her mother is marrying Steve, and moving her and her sister Casey from San Francisco to Pacifica. At least they get to stay at their schools, although this involve a lengthy car rides each day. It doesn't help that their mother doesn't want to give their father the address of Steve's house, since he is an alcoholic who occasionally shows up and causes commotion. Louisa misses being able to walk to her friend Beth Tsai's house, and struggles to find the bright spots about the new place. She has her own room, and Steve is a nice guy, but being nice to him seems to irritate Casey, who is in high school and taking the move very badly. Lou's father doesn't call for her birthday, although a guitar shows up at the new house for her, but he does show up to the wedding the next day in an inebriated state. After that, the girls have trouble even getting ahold of him on the phone. There are nice neighbors, Marcus and Shannon Merritt-Mendoza, who have small children, and Lou trades guitar lessons for helping out Casey with some babysitting. Their house is a comforting place for Casey, but it's hard for Lou to watch Marcus be such a good father, and she's also angry that her mother and Steve gave her bunkbed to the family without asking her. Lou starts to find good things about Steve's house, which he had shared with his mother for years, but when the school finds out that the family has moved, she and Casey have to change schools. Lou reinvents herself as Lu, has her mother cut her hair, and adopts a sort of punk rock look to go along with her new interest in guitar. She makes friends with Kyra, and the two bond over the fact that Kyra's father left when she was young and her mother is a recovering alcoholic. Steve has an annual street picnic that he and his mother always hosted, and there is also a talent show at school that Lu signs up to be in. Will life in Pacifica ever feel "normal"? Strengths: Wow. Zarr (Sweethearts, 2008) enters the middle grade arena with a powerful tale of blended families reminiscent of Betty Miles' Looking On (1978) or The Trouble with Thirteen (1979), books I loved so much as a tween that I bought them and kept them well into adulthood. The depiction of the troubled father, and his absence from Casey and Lou's lives, was sone in such a way that his absence was palpable throughout, even with all of the other changes. Lou's interest in the guitar, and her interaction with the neighbors, was a subplot that added such a wonderful layer to the book. There is also some description of Lou stealing small objects from Beth and from Steve when she felt particularly stressed, and her confrontation with Beth about this was unique to middle grade literature. Steve was such a great character, and I loved that Casey's warning about "the REAL Steve" is echoed at the end of the book, but that Steve's true colors are even more brilliant than expected. This had some similarities to Goeble's Pigture Perfect. I would love to see more books about different variations of parents, and children dealing with rearrangement of their living situations. This is one of those rare books that I wanted to reread right after finishing it. Weaknesses: Louisa has a rather large number of nicknames that were a bit hard to keep straight. It also took me a while to figure out where exactly the book was set. Not sure why I needed to know this; something about the intricacies of travel made me want to know specific locations. What I really think: I loved that this had a happy ending. I think we all need books with happy endings right now, since real life is rather lacking in them. This will be a fantastic book to share with my readers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    5 stars As an incoming fan of Sara Zarr's, I had high expectations; they were exceeded. Louisa, who has a number of nicknames, is the complex main character of this novel. Her heart is breaking, and yours will, too. When readers meet Lou, she is in the thick of some serious changes. Her parents are divorced, but her mom is now about to marry Steve, who proposed to her on the third date (!!!). As a result, Lou will be moving out of the apartment she has lived in with her mother and sister (Casey, 5 stars As an incoming fan of Sara Zarr's, I had high expectations; they were exceeded. Louisa, who has a number of nicknames, is the complex main character of this novel. Her heart is breaking, and yours will, too. When readers meet Lou, she is in the thick of some serious changes. Her parents are divorced, but her mom is now about to marry Steve, who proposed to her on the third date (!!!). As a result, Lou will be moving out of the apartment she has lived in with her mother and sister (Casey, who is an amazing inclusion and needs a book of her own) since she was a baby. On top of these major changes, Lou's dad is an alcoholic, and every adult reader will hold their breaths when this guy is mentioned let alone when he appears. He is a piece of work. Lou is in fifth grade, so her life is filled with typical drama and changes on top of the aforementioned profusion of chaos. Lou's internal and environmental struggles are constant, engaging, and relatable for every reader who will minimally know someone who... if they have not experienced these issues themselves. Throughout the novel, Lou is on the edge, and one of the many great assets Zarr reveals is HOW Lou's emotions and struggles manifest. Running a close second on my list of absolute favorite choices here is the cast of secondary folks. I wanted to have a serious talking to with Lou and Casey's mom, but she's also had it rough, and almost every other character makes up for some of her shortcomings. For about the first quarter of the novel, I was sold on the notion that this was going to be a good middle grade text, but around that mark - and all the way through to the end - it really found a rightful place as EXCELLENT. Zarr masterfully packs in so many issues, including but not limited to socioeconomic struggles, housing insecurity, alcoholism, blended families, divorce, friendships, relationships, un/healthy adult/child interactions, forgiveness, and honesty, and somehow manages to maintain an engaging and never didactic tone. I remain a super fan of this author and look forward to enthusiastically recommending this one to students and beyond. *Special thanks to NetGalley and Balzer + Bray for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    acorn

    Deep, important, slow paced Lou’s life is changing. She is moving in with her moms boyfriend. She is changing schools. She is learning guitar. She doesn’t know where her dad is. And she is discovering who she is. I think the topics addresses in this story care really important!! They are well represented as well. The characters were relatable but the story felt slow paced to me. This may just be that it is meant for a younger audience (8-12) and the story doesn’t have big exciting conflict. So, m Deep, important, slow paced Lou’s life is changing. She is moving in with her moms boyfriend. She is changing schools. She is learning guitar. She doesn’t know where her dad is. And she is discovering who she is. I think the topics addresses in this story care really important!! They are well represented as well. The characters were relatable but the story felt slow paced to me. This may just be that it is meant for a younger audience (8-12) and the story doesn’t have big exciting conflict. So, mixed thoughts but I’m glad I read it. ✌️

  5. 4 out of 5

    Of Pens and Swords

    A Song Called Home follows Lou, a fifth-grader whose Mom is getting remarried to Steve, who she's been dating for a year after having divorced Lou's father, an alcoholic, two years prior. Both she and her 15-year-old sister Casey are against this; it will mean leaving the apartment where they've lived all of their lives, leaving the city to move to the suburbs, and leaving their school and all of their friends. On her birthday, she receives a guitar that she assumes to be from her father, who sh A Song Called Home follows Lou, a fifth-grader whose Mom is getting remarried to Steve, who she's been dating for a year after having divorced Lou's father, an alcoholic, two years prior. Both she and her 15-year-old sister Casey are against this; it will mean leaving the apartment where they've lived all of their lives, leaving the city to move to the suburbs, and leaving their school and all of their friends. On her birthday, she receives a guitar that she assumes to be from her father, who she only rarely has contact with, and decides to learn to play it to impress him. I absolutely adored this book. Lou feels real and complex and like an actual 11 year old who is just trying to cope with her entire life changing. She's sweet and loves her mom and sister and doesn't fully understand what's happening with the adults around her sometimes. She's been through a lot of trauma related to her father's alcoholism, which leads to her dissociating frequently, as well as some amount of kleptomania; while I can't speak to the representation of the dissociation, it was treated very naturally. She definitely needs some sort of therapy though, so I'd like to imagine that she gets that after the book ends. Lou's relationships with her family members were some of the most interesting aspects of the book. She and Casey, while going through the same experience, respond to it very differently (likely largely driven by the age difference between them), and their parallel character development is done very well. Lou looks up to her sister a lot, so Casey's actions have a large impact on her own growth. Lou's relationship with her mom, while not perfect, is definitely one of the largest sources of stability in her life. Her growing relationship with Steve, her stepfather, is particularly intriguing, especially since it is very representative of her adjustment to all of the change in her life as a whole. The progression of that relationship is done very well and feels completely natural. Lou's relationship with her own father is more complicated, since, because he's only there for a couple scenes in the book, it is mostly her engaging with her idea of him, and particularly with her idea of what she wishes he were like, and over the course of the book she gradually has to come to terms with the fact that she can't force him to change and that hoping he'll become the idealized parent that she envisions in her head isn't healthy for her, which is another evolution that Zarr develops very well. The book is primarily dealing with the idea of change; it is present in every aspect of the plot. It's a story of a young girl figuring out how to react and adapt to large changes in her life that she can't control, and learning how to adjust to a life that is significantly different from that which she's always had. As somebody who has a large fear of change myself, I empathized a lot with Lou in that aspect, and a lot of the parts that were particularly painful for her in that aspect felt painful to me too. That fear and Lou's learning how to deal with it was absolutely my favorite part of the book, and is what I believe to be the most well-written aspect of it. Additionally, despite the book dealing with a lot of heavy topics, most notably Lou's father's alcoholism and its effects on her, it is ultimately heartwarming and uplifting. I honestly can't think of a single bad thing to say about this book; I adored reading it. The pacing was perfect, the structure worked wonderfully, the characters were lovable, and I don't have a single complaint. I'm giving this book an enthusiastic five stars. I would recommend A Song Called Home to anybody of any age who loves character-driven stories or just wants to read a wonderfully-written contemporary book about change. It's a poignant story of a fifth-grader learning how to cope with change and adjust to a new environment. The progression of the book feels very natural, and the reader is empathizing with and rooting for Lou every step of the way. It's about creating new families and new friendships and embracing changes that happen for the better, as well as accepting and letting go of that which you can't control; it's amazing and I can't recommend it enough. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    A really deft, lovely handling of multiple different, significant issues through the eyes of a narrator whose flaws don't outweigh her clear and sensitive perspective. Lu's relationship with her father and her feelings about her family's financial circumstances are particularly well-portrayed and complex, and the pacing of Lu's growing relationship with Steve was perfect. I did feel as if the plotlines about Lu's stealing, her feelings about God/religion, and her friendships both with Beth and K A really deft, lovely handling of multiple different, significant issues through the eyes of a narrator whose flaws don't outweigh her clear and sensitive perspective. Lu's relationship with her father and her feelings about her family's financial circumstances are particularly well-portrayed and complex, and the pacing of Lu's growing relationship with Steve was perfect. I did feel as if the plotlines about Lu's stealing, her feelings about God/religion, and her friendships both with Beth and Kyra might have been emotionally clearer, but there is an element of realism to the muddled feelings and tapering momentum that felt true as well. A perfect book for readers whose own lives include alcoholism, new family structure, financial struggles, or big changes, or anyone who's looking for a story that is both hard and hopeful. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    I was blown away by this book. I know Sara Zarr usually writes for teens, but I'm not sure I can remember the last time I read kid feelings captured so perfectly on the page. I love Lu. LOVE her. That moment where she's at her class goodbye party and she realizes that her classmates will just keep on keeping on, even after she leaves? I was taken aback by all the Christian stuff, not because it was poorly done but mostly because I wasnt expecting it. I can't wait until I can share this book with I was blown away by this book. I know Sara Zarr usually writes for teens, but I'm not sure I can remember the last time I read kid feelings captured so perfectly on the page. I love Lu. LOVE her. That moment where she's at her class goodbye party and she realizes that her classmates will just keep on keeping on, even after she leaves? I was taken aback by all the Christian stuff, not because it was poorly done but mostly because I wasnt expecting it. I can't wait until I can share this book with kids.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I read this aloud with my daughter and loved it! It was better than any book I was reading on my own at the time. The main character is a girl with divorced parents and an alcoholic father, her mom gets remarried, they move and she changes schools. The author writes so respectfully for her audience; these are tough topics that kids all over are dealing with. The writing is honest and the characters are endearing. It’s a book that should be in every classroom for how many kids could read it, see I read this aloud with my daughter and loved it! It was better than any book I was reading on my own at the time. The main character is a girl with divorced parents and an alcoholic father, her mom gets remarried, they move and she changes schools. The author writes so respectfully for her audience; these are tough topics that kids all over are dealing with. The writing is honest and the characters are endearing. It’s a book that should be in every classroom for how many kids could read it, see themselves in the story, and find comfort and (hopefully) hope. And also- just a wonderful book for anyone to read for fun.

  9. 4 out of 5

    DaNae

    The writing of this deserves the full five stars. I read this back to back with Anderson’s, Riley’s Ghost. Zarr out-writes the other book at every turn. Both books deal with protagonists who are acting out in negative and somewhat self-destructive ways. Anderson’s, Riley feels shallow and artificial where Zarr’s Lou is brutally genuine. Every character, every interaction, every motivation, every conversation, and the resolution all completely genuine. Anyone who as even lived adjacent to someone The writing of this deserves the full five stars. I read this back to back with Anderson’s, Riley’s Ghost. Zarr out-writes the other book at every turn. Both books deal with protagonists who are acting out in negative and somewhat self-destructive ways. Anderson’s, Riley feels shallow and artificial where Zarr’s Lou is brutally genuine. Every character, every interaction, every motivation, every conversation, and the resolution all completely genuine. Anyone who as even lived adjacent to someone who has lived with an addict will see and understand Lou and Casey. Sara isn’t giving readers a safe and tidy solution to very hard problems but shines hope into messy realities. Popsugar #21: A book about a band or music group

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    EARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Lou has a lot going on in her life that many middle grade readers will understand-an absent father, a mom remarrying, and a move to a new town. Because of this, she navigates family and friendship dilemmas that help her figure out where her home really is. This is a great choice for student book clubs because of the discussions and conversations that will take place.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Reviewed in the New York Times Book review, 2/13/22 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/11/bo... Reviewed in the New York Times Book review, 2/13/22 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/11/bo...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Kim

    3.5 stars. I prefer not to give half stars, but I really did think this was better than books I’ve been giving 3 stars to—better-written and more engaging and you do root for everyone. But this was also not quite what I had been giving 4 stars to—a bit too conventional and thus predictable perhaps.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    If Lou's mother's life was a book, it would be a romance novel, and if that were the case, this book would pick up just as Lou's mom got her Happily Ever After. Lou's mom has a new husband and Lou has a new stepfather, a new school, and a new house. She's been shaped by the years her alcoholic father was around and she's being shaped by the fact that he's not around anymore. More so with most books, I felt every bit of Lou's feelings. Where they came from, where they lived in her, how long they l If Lou's mother's life was a book, it would be a romance novel, and if that were the case, this book would pick up just as Lou's mom got her Happily Ever After. Lou's mom has a new husband and Lou has a new stepfather, a new school, and a new house. She's been shaped by the years her alcoholic father was around and she's being shaped by the fact that he's not around anymore. More so with most books, I felt every bit of Lou's feelings. Where they came from, where they lived in her, how long they lingered. This is a long book for a middle grade book, and one I I think adults shouldn't pass by.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Thanks to NetGalley & HarperCollins Children’s Books for a digital advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own. This is the kind of book that will resonate with many readers (young and older) including those who have an alcoholic parent, who have had to move to a new school and make new friends mid-term, gaining a stepparent, and growing more independent as she develops her own identity. Fifth grader Lou experiences all these things, while acknowledging a sense of loss and hope an Thanks to NetGalley & HarperCollins Children’s Books for a digital advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own. This is the kind of book that will resonate with many readers (young and older) including those who have an alcoholic parent, who have had to move to a new school and make new friends mid-term, gaining a stepparent, and growing more independent as she develops her own identity. Fifth grader Lou experiences all these things, while acknowledging a sense of loss and hope and new beginnings. Zarr poignantly describes Lou's longing for her dad, for home, for her family to be whole. "That feeling of waiting and waiting for the next bad thing to happen and trying to be good so that it didn't. It was a feeling Lou had almost her whole life, so much that when it started to fade after Dad left, after the divorce, it seemed like something was missing." Throughout the novel Lou feels like something is missing. What makes this novel special is Lou's voice - she is so honest about her feelings that I could easily understand her longing and her fears. I'm sure these are the same feelings that many readers have about moving, changing, learning about themselves. Zarr smoothly incorporates Lou's inner thoughts with the everyday moments of her life - visiting the neighbors, spending time with her best friend and making new friends, comparing her old and new teacher/school, getting to know her stepfather, quiet bedtime chats with her mom, her interactions with her older sister. While many of the topics of this novel are "heavy," Zarr skillfully writes from a middle grade perspective so this book is totally appropriate for younger readers. And Lou's relationship with her older sister brings another dimension to the story that anyone with a sibling will appreciate. I enjoyed the give and take between the sisters as they both dealt with their individual emotions. I'm an enthusiastic fan of Sara Zarr's and couldn't wait to read this book from the time I first heard about it. In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Sara since she was a fifth grader, just like Lou. I hope my five star rating encourages you to read this powerful yet sensitive story of a young girl learning about what makes a family.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Knapp

    Growing up is hard, especially when Louise's parents divorce and her mother remarries creating a blended family. Harder still that it means moving away from everything she knows. But can a gifted guitar help? Characters are warm and well rounded, yet complex and meaningful. story is believable and timely with blended families. Growing up is hard, especially when Louise's parents divorce and her mother remarries creating a blended family. Harder still that it means moving away from everything she knows. But can a gifted guitar help? Characters are warm and well rounded, yet complex and meaningful. story is believable and timely with blended families.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie’s Picks: A SONG CALLED HOME by Sara Zarr, HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, March 2022, 368p., ISBN: 978-0-06-304492-0 “Round and round and round we spin To weave a wall, to hem us in It won’t be long, it won’t be long So slow and slow and slow it goes To mend a tear that always shows It won’t be long, it won’t be long” – Neil Young (1969) Change can be really tough. Lou and her big sister Casey are facing having to leave their apartment, their neighborhood in San Francisco, and their closest friends. T Richie’s Picks: A SONG CALLED HOME by Sara Zarr, HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, March 2022, 368p., ISBN: 978-0-06-304492-0 “Round and round and round we spin To weave a wall, to hem us in It won’t be long, it won’t be long So slow and slow and slow it goes To mend a tear that always shows It won’t be long, it won’t be long” – Neil Young (1969) Change can be really tough. Lou and her big sister Casey are facing having to leave their apartment, their neighborhood in San Francisco, and their closest friends. They will be moving in with Steve, their impoverished Mom’s new boyfriend-and-soon-to-be-husband. It’s sinking in that Lou’s parents will never again live together. And, as the wedding and big move approach, Lou is not happy about so many precious pieces of their former lives being unceremoniously dumped into cardboard boxes destined for Steve’s garage or for donation. “Anyway, the point was that their lives had been their lives. Dad had left over two years ago now, and Mom and Lou and Casey were finally getting used to life without him in the apartment. No more walking on eggshells. No more peeking around corners, trying not to walk through a room where Dad might be drunk. No more guessing when he’d get home and what he’d be like when he did. No more wondering how long he’d be able to keep his job this time, or if he’d remember things like your birthday or your baptism or if it was a Saturday or a Tuesday. He didn’t live with them anymore, and he still drank. But also, he was still Dad. She didn’t need a new one. She just wanted the one she had to be different. Now they had to change everything, including houses, towns, friends, and then also schools next year. It was February; in the fall, Lou would have to start sixth grade in a totally new place with all-new people. And Casey would start eleventh grade the same way.” As a child who has had to rely on hand-me-downs and charitable friends and neighbors, Louisa Emerson is a troubled kid who, as she approaches adolescence, is beginning to indulge her anger by engaging in some dangerous antisocial behaviors. One thing Louisa may have going for her is the guitar her alcoholic father leaves sitting outside the old apartment on her last birthday there. A friend and neighbor of her new stepfather plays guitar and he offers to give her some lessons in exchange for her taking on babysitting duties. Will building up callouses on her fingers while learning guitar chords help lead Lou to a more peaceful place amidst the world of changes she is undergoing? Can she reach a point where she is happy and relaxed in her new life? Tweens will readily engage with this young character who is both so relatable and, at the same time, somewhat mystifying. It’s clear that Lou’s behavior could well land her in serious trouble, in a blink of an eye, if someone just happens to catch her in the act. The story has just enough of a tween edge to make it one that young readers will be enthusiastically talking up to one another. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/ https://twitter.com/richiespicks [email protected]

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr Pub Date 22 Feb 2022 HarperCollins Children's Books, Balzer + Bray Children's Fiction | Middle Grade I am reviewing a copy of A Song Called Home through HarperCollins Children’s Books, Bakker + Bray and Netgalley: Lou and her family do not have much, but for Lou it is enough, she doesn’t need a lot. She has her Mom, her sister Casey. They have their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her and C A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr Pub Date 22 Feb 2022 HarperCollins Children's Books, Balzer + Bray Children's Fiction | Middle Grade I am reviewing a copy of A Song Called Home through HarperCollins Children’s Books, Bakker + Bray and Netgalley: Lou and her family do not have much, but for Lou it is enough, she doesn’t need a lot. She has her Mom, her sister Casey. They have their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her and Casey, and if they didn't have to worry about money all the time. But Lou doesn’t need better she only needs enough. But what is enough for Lou, however, is not enough for Mom. Steve, Mom's boyfriend, isn’t a bad guy, he's just not what Lou is used to. Now her Mom and her boyfriend are getting married and that means they have to move. It feels like they are packing up the life they had once known and storing it in Steve’s Garage. Lou will be separated from everything in her small but predictable life, farther from Dad than ever. On her last night in the city Lou receives a mysterious birthday gift: A guitar, left for her by their front door. There’s nothing saying who left it, but it must be from Dad. As she leaves the only place she has ever known she starts to believe that if she can learn how to play it, maybe she can bring a piece of him, and of her old life, home. I give A Song Called Home five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pumkin pie

    I'd give this book a four-and-a-half star rating. It was a very good book about a girl called Lou (or Lu, or El, or Lulu, or Belle, or Louise). In it, she and her sister have to move with their Mom to live with their new stepfather, named Steve. Only, Lou and her sister, Casey (or Case), don't want to move. They want to stay at their old school, with their own friends, in the only home that they've ever known, their tiny apartment in the middle in the city in California. But it's not just moving I'd give this book a four-and-a-half star rating. It was a very good book about a girl called Lou (or Lu, or El, or Lulu, or Belle, or Louise). In it, she and her sister have to move with their Mom to live with their new stepfather, named Steve. Only, Lou and her sister, Casey (or Case), don't want to move. They want to stay at their old school, with their own friends, in the only home that they've ever known, their tiny apartment in the middle in the city in California. But it's not just moving that Lou's upset about. She also feels bad about leaving her Dad, whose always drunk and homeless. But, no one asked their opinion. So, their being dragged out of the city, Steve's big house in the middle of nowhere. But on the night that they're about to move, a guitar mysteriously appears, and it's for Lou? There's no name, but Lou knows that it must be from her Dad. And maybe if she could learn to play it, then...maybe he'll stop being drunk. Maybe he'll be able to hold a decent job, and get a house! But most importantly, maybe he'll finally be proud of Lou. So, with her guitar in hand, Lou starts on a new adventure. She starts a new school, makes new friends, and becomes closer to her family, all while learning to play. This book has many plot twists and will keep you turning the pages until the end.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alexa Hamilton

    Lou's mom is marrying Steve, turning their small family into a bigger one. It's just Steve, no stepkids, but Lou and her sister Casey have always lived in the tiny apartment with their mother and sometimes their father. But not any more. He can't get his drinking under control so he no longer stays there. Lou's whole life is going to change and her mom doesn't quite get it. Her big sister does, but she has her own problems. We follow Lou as she copes with these changes, through stealing small stu Lou's mom is marrying Steve, turning their small family into a bigger one. It's just Steve, no stepkids, but Lou and her sister Casey have always lived in the tiny apartment with their mother and sometimes their father. But not any more. He can't get his drinking under control so he no longer stays there. Lou's whole life is going to change and her mom doesn't quite get it. Her big sister does, but she has her own problems. We follow Lou as she copes with these changes, through stealing small stuff from her family and friends, and also just acting out a tiny bit, almost to see if anyone notices. It's a little bit of a quiet emotional book but it gives a lot of time for Lou to explore and become Lu in her new school. She finds a way to connect with Steve and her new school. You can see it is easier for her in 5th grade than it is for her sister in HS, where you don't have the same easy entry. And you can see the choices her mother made, and the happy fact that Steve is not an alcoholic and he isn't going to turn into a new person once the honeymoon is over. I think there's a lot of good emotional stuff here for kids experiencing lots of changes. I loved the involvement of the new neighbors as important adults in Lu and Casey's lives.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melanie H.

    Lou, short for Louisa, does not like all of the change happening in her life. Her mother his marrying Steve, a man she met at their church. Steve is nice enough but Lou and Casey, her sister have a father. He just isn't around all that much. He's an alcoholic and struggles to hold down a job or retain a place to live. The worst part is that after her mother marries Steve they all have to give up the apartment Lou has lived in her whole life and go live with Steve in the suburbs. This also means Lou, short for Louisa, does not like all of the change happening in her life. Her mother his marrying Steve, a man she met at their church. Steve is nice enough but Lou and Casey, her sister have a father. He just isn't around all that much. He's an alcoholic and struggles to hold down a job or retain a place to live. The worst part is that after her mother marries Steve they all have to give up the apartment Lou has lived in her whole life and go live with Steve in the suburbs. This also means that she will have to change schools and won't get to see her best friend Beth as much. Casey is having major issues with all the change as well. When Lou is mysteriously gifted a guitar for her birthday she thinks her father gave it to her. She practices hard to master the instrument for the talent show at her new school. She invites her dad to come as she really wants him to be proud of her. In the end Lou realizes that sometimes things change. Change brings lots of things that make us uncomfortable but also it can bring good things too. A good read-aloud for families with young children experiencing addiction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Fitzgerald

    Ten-year-old Louisa must adjust to many changes in her life, after her mom remarries and her family moves away from the apartment she grew up in. The move also distances them from Louisa’s father, who had leave several years ago because of his alcoholism. She and her older sister have mixed feelings about this; they miss the Dad of occasional good days, but hate the memories he left them of many bad days. In spite of the rather heavy subject matter, this book still gave me “warm fuzzies”. So much Ten-year-old Louisa must adjust to many changes in her life, after her mom remarries and her family moves away from the apartment she grew up in. The move also distances them from Louisa’s father, who had leave several years ago because of his alcoholism. She and her older sister have mixed feelings about this; they miss the Dad of occasional good days, but hate the memories he left them of many bad days. In spite of the rather heavy subject matter, this book still gave me “warm fuzzies”. So much love in the fact that Louisa thought of she, her mom, and older sis as a special unit, a “we” of only three. Casey often pulls rank as the older sister, but her love and concern for Louisa is also evident. As for Steve, the new husband and stepfather, I will say I think he is a real blessing to be around, (but no spoilers)! I think anyone who has experienced separation from loved ones, and had to adjust accordingly, would really relate to this book. Trigger Warnings: Louisa’s alcoholic father is shown to be verbally abusive when he is drunk; teenage alcoholism is addressed; Casey attends an Alateen meeting in response to her father’s’ drunkenness.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    This book was lovely. Lu was a layered, complex character who experiences incredible growth. At times her journey was difficult to read. Her life has been topsy-turvy due to her father's alcohol addiction for so long that she struggles to find balance. Between her mother's new (and fast-paced) marriage, her sister's fight for independence, and a move to a new house and school district... Lu has a lot going on. I love how realistic the descriptions of her house and former apartment were. Most mid This book was lovely. Lu was a layered, complex character who experiences incredible growth. At times her journey was difficult to read. Her life has been topsy-turvy due to her father's alcohol addiction for so long that she struggles to find balance. Between her mother's new (and fast-paced) marriage, her sister's fight for independence, and a move to a new house and school district... Lu has a lot going on. I love how realistic the descriptions of her house and former apartment were. Most middle grade tends to place their character in flawless environments. But Lu's was real, from the stains in the carpet to the old bunk bed. Prior to reading, I did not realize there were themes of Christianity, but they never felt overwhelming or overstated. Christianity was just a facet of the novel, not the main element. The only reason I docked a star was for the lack of mental health awareness. Lu experienced a lot of trauma in her short life. This trauma resulted in frequent disassociation and kleptomania. While these issues seemed to improve the more stable her life became, she would have truly benefitted from seeing a therapist or counselor. There was some talk of Lu and her sister attending Alateen, but it just didn't feel like enough. However, this was a great read and is sure to bring comfort to many children facing similar difficulties. #netgalley

  23. 5 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    This middle grade novel focuses on a girl who is coping with loss after her mother divorces her alcoholic father and prepares to marry someone else. The book engages with common emotional struggles related to moving, entering a blended family, and grieving a still-living but absent father. The book addresses alcoholism in an incredibly honest, realistic, and moving way. The story drags a lot in the second half, but I am giving the book four stars for the sense of emotional truth that it conveys This middle grade novel focuses on a girl who is coping with loss after her mother divorces her alcoholic father and prepares to marry someone else. The book engages with common emotional struggles related to moving, entering a blended family, and grieving a still-living but absent father. The book addresses alcoholism in an incredibly honest, realistic, and moving way. The story drags a lot in the second half, but I am giving the book four stars for the sense of emotional truth that it conveys in all of the ups and downs of the main character's experience. I also appreciated the religious elements of the book, since it is very rare for contemporary realistic fiction to include characters who experience God and church as central pars of their lives. I wish that the book had resolved some of the spiritual questions that it brought up, since there are good answers for them, but this book can be especially helpful for kids who share the character's church background.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this novel. The free copy did not affect my review. Lou likes her life in an apartment with her friend, Beth, close by. It is small, but her sister, her mom, and her have made it work. The only thing she wishes for is her father to stop drinking and come home to be with her. However, her mother wishes for more. She is marrying someone else, a guy named Steve, and they have to move away from everything Lou has ever known. When her father forgets Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this novel. The free copy did not affect my review. Lou likes her life in an apartment with her friend, Beth, close by. It is small, but her sister, her mom, and her have made it work. The only thing she wishes for is her father to stop drinking and come home to be with her. However, her mother wishes for more. She is marrying someone else, a guy named Steve, and they have to move away from everything Lou has ever known. When her father forgets to call her on her birthday, but a guitar shows up, she knows it’s him. She thinks that if she gets good at it, then he will come back and take her with him. This is a great book about her going through change! A Song Called Home would be perfect for any realistic fiction reader or young guitar player! It was very sweet and seeing her grow throughout the book was nice. Grades 4+

  25. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    I felt for fifth-grader Lou (also known as Lu) every time she pocketed someone else’s property, I don’t know much about the compulsion to steal but I very much understood that this kid was hurting, the author made Lu’s emotional struggles apparent, not only in those moments of thievery but throughout this story, as she faces moving away from the only home she’s ever known, navigating a new school, a new stepdad, distance from her best friend, and more difficult than anything, the absence of her I felt for fifth-grader Lou (also known as Lu) every time she pocketed someone else’s property, I don’t know much about the compulsion to steal but I very much understood that this kid was hurting, the author made Lu’s emotional struggles apparent, not only in those moments of thievery but throughout this story, as she faces moving away from the only home she’s ever known, navigating a new school, a new stepdad, distance from her best friend, and more difficult than anything, the absence of her alcoholic father. I loved the relationship between Lu and her older sister Casey, they don’t get along perfectly (what siblings do?) but the love is never in doubt, and their misbehavior, their bonding, and especially their reactions to their father as well as to the presence of alcohol at a party all came across with plenty of honesty and heart.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This is a wonderful middle-grade book about adjusting to big changes (i.e. losses) in early adolescence. The book opens on moving day for Lou who is sad to leave the apartment she's lived in with her mother and sister, and father before he left. She's also leaving the city and her best friend. Lou is flawed but genuine and everything she does makes sense. I related to her frustrations with the adults who are thrusting big changes on her and not taking the time to talk them through with their kid This is a wonderful middle-grade book about adjusting to big changes (i.e. losses) in early adolescence. The book opens on moving day for Lou who is sad to leave the apartment she's lived in with her mother and sister, and father before he left. She's also leaving the city and her best friend. Lou is flawed but genuine and everything she does makes sense. I related to her frustrations with the adults who are thrusting big changes on her and not taking the time to talk them through with their kids. But the adults are not made out to be bad guys or one-dimensional. They are just people trying to do what's best and dealing with the stresses of the big changes as well. Sara Zarr is one of the few writers in this genre who is willing to go deep into her characters on an emotional level, as they deal with the ordinary but heart-wrenching events that make us who we are.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joy Moore

    A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr is a beautiful, poignant story of a lost girl, trying to find her way. Lou is up to her ears in difficulties. A new “dad”, a new school, a sister who is becoming more and more distant. A real dad who is someone she loves and yearns for, while despising at the same time. A real dad who shames her. A real dad whom she is trying to make love her. Lou copes with these problems as any girl her age would. But the change and growth comes about in an easy natural, organic, A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr is a beautiful, poignant story of a lost girl, trying to find her way. Lou is up to her ears in difficulties. A new “dad”, a new school, a sister who is becoming more and more distant. A real dad who is someone she loves and yearns for, while despising at the same time. A real dad who shames her. A real dad whom she is trying to make love her. Lou copes with these problems as any girl her age would. But the change and growth comes about in an easy natural, organic, non-artificial way. The ending is beautiful. We believe every step and miss-step she takes. Lou acts out her frustrations, but tries to make it right in the end. I love that Lou prays. I love that she is wiling to forge new friendships, with different personalities.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris G.

    Mom, fifth grade Lou, and Casey, who’s in high school, are just barely scraping by - living in the Bay Area is pricey and there’s no help from alcoholic dad, who left the family a few years earlier - but they have caring friends from church and their school community. Then Steve, from church, and mom fall in love, get married, and they all move to Steve’s home in the suburbs. It’s hard for both girls, but a teacher who creates a welcoming classroom makes the transition for Lou, now going by Lu, Mom, fifth grade Lou, and Casey, who’s in high school, are just barely scraping by - living in the Bay Area is pricey and there’s no help from alcoholic dad, who left the family a few years earlier - but they have caring friends from church and their school community. Then Steve, from church, and mom fall in love, get married, and they all move to Steve’s home in the suburbs. It’s hard for both girls, but a teacher who creates a welcoming classroom makes the transition for Lou, now going by Lu, easier than for Casey, whose boyfriend breaks up with her. Zarr skillfully shows the difficulty of forming a new family, the trauma caused by alcoholism, and what it takes to learn to trust. Really an excellent story. EARC from Edelweiss.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    A tale for 8-12 year olds (tweens and teens), and older, of growing up, dealing with a a new family, a new school and friends, and life in general. The author takes on themes of alcohol addiction, insecurity, being part of a blended family, and just being teens and tweens and all the emotional turmoil that entails. The story is cute, it's perfect for younger teens, and there's a strong dose of Church and belief in G-d, particularly someone to turn to in times of stress and distress. The parental A tale for 8-12 year olds (tweens and teens), and older, of growing up, dealing with a a new family, a new school and friends, and life in general. The author takes on themes of alcohol addiction, insecurity, being part of a blended family, and just being teens and tweens and all the emotional turmoil that entails. The story is cute, it's perfect for younger teens, and there's a strong dose of Church and belief in G-d, particularly someone to turn to in times of stress and distress. The parental characters are strong and caring. Religious tolerance and tolerance in general is another theme of this book. Thanks to the BookLoft of German Village (Columbus, OH) http://www.bookloft.com for an ARC to read and review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Lou (short for Louisa) is struggling with mom's rapidly upcoming wedding to her brand new boyfriend from church, Steve as well as the fact that they will be moving into his house half an hour away. She is worried about leaving her best friend behind but also that her alcoholic father might not be able to find them either. Just before they leave the old apartment, Lou receives a mystery birthday gift: a guitar. She is convinced that it is from her dad and she is determined to learn to play it bec Lou (short for Louisa) is struggling with mom's rapidly upcoming wedding to her brand new boyfriend from church, Steve as well as the fact that they will be moving into his house half an hour away. She is worried about leaving her best friend behind but also that her alcoholic father might not be able to find them either. Just before they leave the old apartment, Lou receives a mystery birthday gift: a guitar. She is convinced that it is from her dad and she is determined to learn to play it because it is a tie to both him and her old home. This is a sweet story about family and friendship although it tackles difficult topics like alcoholism and divorce at the same time. Authentic voice throughout. No easy solutions given, although there is hope and growth for all characters.

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