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Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Dog Called Homeless, written by Sarah Lean. Katherine Tegen Books, Harper. 2012. $18.99 ages 10 and up

"Dad looked more worried when we left that when we went in. And it made me feel scared of Dr. Colborn. I started to think that she was going to make me tell her that I saw my dead mom and then tell me it wasn't true and make me say it wasn't true. And worse, if I said it wasn't true, it might make Mom go away forever, and then I might never see Homeless again. Already I hated Dr. Colborn."

Poor Cally! She is having a terrible time coming to grips with her Mom's accidental death a year ago, on her father's birthday. Everything has changed for the family, and Cally is even worrying that she might be losing her father. An anniversary visit to her mother's grave results in Cally believing that she can see her mother watching over her bright red raincoat and green rain hat. When she tells her father and brother, they show concern for her. Of course, they don't believe her.

At school, things have changed, too. Cally is often in trouble and decides to take on the challenge of not speaking for a whole school day to help raise money for Angela's Hospice, a place whose work is to help sick children have their dreams come true. The challenge turns into something quite different for Cally, as we learn on the book's first page:

"My name is Cally Louise Fisher, and I haven't spoken for thirty-one days. Talking doesn't always make things happen, however much you want it to. Think of rain; it just happens when it happens. When the clouds are ready, when they're full, they drop the water. It's not magic; it's just putting something back where it belongs."

The changes that take place for her family result in Cally's meeting some truly amazing people, and an even more spectacular dog. He comes to school, to the park and she sees him with Jed, a homeless man from their new neighborhood. He is called Homeless and he seems to have a special affinity for Cally. She also meets Mrs. Cooper, a neighbor in their new apartment building and her son Sam, who has numerous difficulties. He is blind, almost deaf and has a weak heart. Sam's heart is also so remarkably full that you will not forget him!

Sam helps the heartbroken Cally understand that her mother remains with her, and will always be close. As days go by, and Cally deals with the many changes in her life, we watch her find ways to cope with the loss so fully felt by her family.  Her voice is remarkably strong, and yet bewildered by all that she sees happening around her. Will her mother disappear forever if Cally finds her voice? Why does Homeless seem to be just the dog for their family? Who is Jed?

I smiled, sighed, cried, marveled and fell in love with Cally, her family, her friends and with Homeless. What a truly special story this is.

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