A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr

Published by Balzer + Bray

Summary:  Lou’s unhappy about her mother’s remarriage to Steve, which means a move out of San Francisco to the suburbs, leaving her old school and best friend, and dealing with her 15-year-old sister’s rebellion about all the changes.  She misses her dad, but also feels relieved not to have to deal with his drinking.  When a guitar mysteriously appears outside her door on her birthday, she assumes it’s a gift from her dad and decides to learn how to play it for the school talent show, hoping that her performance will help reconnect her with her father.  A new friend becomes part of her act, and kind neighbors help her with her guitar and provide a haven for both Lou and Casey.  Slowly, the whole family starts to adjust to their new situation, and by the time the talent show arrives, Lou has learned some important lessons about the people she cares about and who care about her.  356 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I was fortunate enough to bring this book with me while flying to Washington, DC, and it sustained me at the airport, on the flight, and into the next morning when I finished it.  The family portrayals are so well done, with each character having both good traits and flaws.  I don’t know if it’s Newbery material, but I am definitely putting it on my own short list.

Cons:  I couldn’t put it down and then was sad when I was done with it so quickly.

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