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13 February 2022 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






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