Monday, February 21, 2022

MMGM- A Song Called Home

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Zarr, Sara. A Song Called Home
February 22nd 2022 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
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. 


  1. This sounds really good! Thanks for sharing.

  2. The characters and plot really do sound like a "Wow" book, plus saying you wanted to read this again sold me for sure. Thanks for featuring your review on MMGM.

  3. Thanks, Karen, will put it on my list!

  4. San Francisco and Pacifica are two places I lived in and had a sort of similar experience traveling quite a long time to stay in school. Thanks for sharing this book.

  5. I agree, we do need more books about kids in different blended living situations. Kids need to see themselves in similar stories. Like the happy ending! Thanks for sharing today!

  6. This one really sounds great. Your high praise has me intrigued. I'll look for it. Thanks for the review.