Carry Me Home by Janet Fox
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 208
Publishing: August 24th, 2021
Source: Review copy provided by Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media
Opening Lines "The day Lulu's daddy disappeared was, so far, the coldest morning of the year."
Twelve-year-old Lulu and her younger sister, Serena wake up one morning in their family Suburban to find that their daddy is missing. All that was left behind was his wallet, a dead phone and the keys to the car. Initially, Lulu isn't too worried about her daddy's disappearance, he did go missing once before and returned, but this time things feel different. In the meantime, Lulu tries to keep to the routine that daddy established for them. She makes sure she and Serena have breakfast, get off to school on time and even goes to the food pantry to make sure they stay stocked up on food. But as the days go by and the money daddy left behind begins to dwindle, Lulu becomes concerned that someone might figure out that daddy has left them all alone.
Carry Me Home is a riveting, quick read and Lulu will capture your heart. Lulu is a beautiful example of a caring, loving older sister who is determined, strong, a talented writer, singer and wisher. Although she's afraid that she and her little sister might be separated if anyone is to find out their secret, she tries to take over in her dad's absence. Her goal throughout the story is to hide their homelessness from all the adults around her. Lulu's life at times is sad, but also hopeful. It's a realistic portrayal of the difficulties faced with homelessness and how some children can slide through the cracks. There's lots of good information woven into the story about seeing what's around you, and that caring, helpful people do exist. In Lulu's case, she finds help from a kind lunch lady, librarian, and Jack, the nice boy she meets at school.
I read somewhere that the inspiration for Carry Me Home was a NPR story that Fox heard about a family living in their car in Montana. She also drew inspiration from a Hiroshima survivor, Sadako Sasaki and her paper cranes, as well as the sandhill cranes migration. I love how the author carefully crafted the story to include all of these elements while balancing Lulu's past with her dad in Texas with her present in Montana, providing just the right amount of details about how the family ended up in this situation without dwelling on the past. I also liked that Lulu's father isn't a cruel man, although he made some poor choices, he truly loves his daughters and was trying his best to provide for them. What will grab the reader is how Lulu "stands up" for herself and her sister. How she takes charge and carries on until she can no longer. Her wish will resonate with the reader and the story will draw out strong emotions and empathy. The short chapters will make it easier to digest the information, just a beautiful story that had me tearing up at the end. Books to pair this with might include Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo or Front Desk by Kelly Yang.
**A huge thank you to Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media, I just adored this book to pieces!**