“Almost Home”

November 2, 2012

Author of a Newberry honor book, Joan Bauer’s newest book, Almost Home, hit the shelves this year. Reading it the other night in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down because it was like a giant dish of our homemade chocolate ice cream that we made when I was a little girl – I wanted to write down whole chunks of it so I’d never forget them. But here is just one:

The 151 bus pulls up, and Lexie and I get on. Big Bob’s Budget Bus had a slight sour smell; this bus smells better. It heads down the street and I look out the window at the stores and the people walking by.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the driver shouts, “feast your eyes on this fine city. We’re glad you’re here.”

That makes me grin, and I look at the big streets and the tall buildings and wonder if I should feel happy when Reba is locked up in a mental hospital. The thought of that makes me tired.

Lexie doesn’t seem like she ever gets tired. She’s pointing out buildings and a big park. “That’s Lincoln Park,” she tells me. “There a zoo in there, boats on a pond.” She points down a street. “Best ice cream in Chicago is that way. What’s your favorite flavor?”

It’s been so long since I got to choose, I just eat whatever people hand me. “Chocolate chip,” I tell her.

“We need to get you some of that.”

Reba’s favorite is maple pecan–that’s not easy to find, but back when we had our house, she’d buy vanilla ice cream, let it soften, put it in a bowl, and stir in some maple syrup and toasted pecans, then she’d freeze it again. We’d eat it in big yellow bowls on the porch. Those bowls got broken when the sheriff came and carried all our stuff to the street.

We used to cook up a storm in our kitchen–we’d make lovely pizzas, hamburger soup, and sweetie pies, the best dessert ever. They’re like little pecan pies with buttery dough.

Today Lexie and I are heading to her favorite store to get me some clothes, not used ones, either. I look out the window at Chicago. I never want to leave this big, wonderful place.

I look up on the wall of the bus. There’s a poster of a homeless man sleeping on the street and the words GET HIM THE HELP HE NEEDS.

I study the picture of the homeless man. It doesn’t tell the story. In his heart, that man’s got dreams he’s packed away.

Lexie says, “Come on, it’s our stop.”

“You ladies have a good day now,” the driver says.

Lots of people say that, but this guy says it like he means it.

I smile back at him, and the craziest feeling comes over me.

I almost feel normal.

Of course, my mother’s in a mental hospital and just the other day I didn’t have a place to sleep, but sometimes feelings are like a butterfly landing on your arm for a few moments. King Cole told me that.

“You just enjoy them while they’re perched there,” he said.

That man was an official genius.

The whole world should know, but they never will.

It’s a great book. Sugar, the main character is 12. Know anyone on your Christmas list who might need a sweet book like this one?



  1. Joan says:

    thanks for the tip cheryl!

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