Friday, April 28, 2023

Home Away From Home

Lord, Cynthia. Home Away From Home
April 18, 2023 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mia is worried about her mother buying a new house in order to live with Steve, her boyfriend. In order to sell their house, Mia's room is getting painted gray, and the whole process is rather upsetting, so she goes to Maine to spend time with her grandmother. She's glad that she doesn't have to share her grandmother, in the way she has to share her mother with Steve (who is a nice guy) or her father with his new wife and son. She's ready for all of their regular adventures, like getting ice cream, going on walks, and watching birds. Her grandmother is also feeding a stray cat, Miss Agatha. When Mia finds out that her grandmother has been hanging out a lot with Cayman, a neighbor boy whose mother is often ill, she's angry about having to share her grandmother as well. There is an eagle's nest on Cayman's property, and when the two go to see if they can catch a glimpse of the eaglets, they see another bird. It looks unusual, and they can't quite figure out what it is. Mia takes a picture of it and posts it on a birding web site, where it is identified as a gyrfalcon, which is not native to the area and which might have gotten blown off course. Mia identifies the location of the bird only by the town, Stone Cove, but soon birdwatchers are arriving and asking the way to the nest. This irriates Cayman's mother, who is often resting during the day, especially when one woman who knocks on her door offers to help her get support. Mia feels awful that she posted the picture, mainly to identify the bird before Cayman did, especially when one watcher hits the bird with a rock. She and Cayman call the local library, who alert the wildlife specialists, and the bird is found and treated. Mia and Cayman have a falling out when she tells him she doesn't want to share her grandmother, since Cayman is dealing with more serious issues than Mia realizes. Mia finally talks to her grandmother about her fears about the move back home in Ohio, and the two work together to make sure that Cayman and his mother are okay. 
Strengths: Like this author's Because of the Rabbit or Handful of Stars, this was a good mix of details about animal care and realistic tween problems. I liked the fact that Mia didn't really object to Steve's presence in her life, but didn't want to move out of her house if it meant changing schools. Her grandmother was just the right amount of old for the grandmother of a middle school student-- like me, she has some problem on rocky paths, but is generally competent and active. Cayman's problems at home are downplayed, but he does eventually get help. 
Weaknesses: The length of this was perfect, but I would have liked to see less about the stray cat, Miss Agatha, and more about Cayman's day to day struggles with his mother. There are very few depictions of parents who struggle with alcohol addiction in middle grade literature. 
What I really think: The cover of this is very clever and appealing, and the story and scientific information about birds will please readers of other avian themed books like King's The Drake Equation, Perez' Strange Birds, or Miller's Roll
 Ms. Yingling

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