Almost Home
Goodreads ratings
4.24 / 5

"Almost Home" Summary

By Joan Bauer

realistic fiction | 240 pages | Published in 2012

Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer's new novel will touch your heartWhen twelve-year-old Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren't so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar's mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can't control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young girl faces challenges and finds hope and strength as she navigates the foster care system and searches for her place in the world.


"Almost Home" by Joan Bauer is a heartwarming and inspirational novel that follows the journey of a young girl named Sugar Mae Cole as she faces the challenges of homelessness and strives to build a better life for herself and her mother. Set against the backdrop of Chicago, this compelling story delves into themes of resilience, hope, and the power of human connection.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in Chicago, where twelve-year-old Sugar Mae Cole and her mother, Reba, find themselves struggling to make ends meet after losing their home. Forced to live in their car, Sugar navigates the complexities of homelessness while maintaining her optimism and determination. Despite the adversity they face, Sugar and her mother persevere, relying on their unwavering bond and the support of newfound friends to seek a brighter future.


The novel primarily takes place in the bustling city of Chicago, offering a vivid portrayal of urban life and the challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness. From the streets to the shelters, the setting serves as a backdrop for Sugar's resilience and the community she encounters along the way.

Main Characters

The characters in "Almost Home" play pivotal roles in shaping the narrative and conveying profound themes of perseverance and compassion.

Sugar Mae ColeThe resilient and spirited protagonist, a twelve-year-old girl facing homelessness with unwavering determination and a positive outlook.
Reba ColeSugar's mother, who exhibits strength and love for her daughter while navigating the challenges of homelessness.
ShushThe compassionate and resourceful shelter manager who supports Sugar and Reba, offering guidance and encouragement.
Mr. BennettSugar's English teacher, who recognizes her talent for storytelling and provides mentorship, instilling confidence in her abilities.
Even HowardA kind-hearted boy who befriends Sugar, demonstrating empathy and understanding as they navigate their circumstances together.

Summary of Story Points

Chapters 1-5: The Beginning of Adversity

Sugar Mae Cole and her mother, Reba, face the harsh reality of homelessness after losing their home. They struggle to find stability while living in their car, contending with the challenges of shelter life and the stigma associated with their circumstances.

Chapters 6-10: Building Community and Resilience

As Sugar and Reba navigate their new reality, they encounter supportive individuals such as Shush, the shelter manager, and Mr. Bennett, Sugar's English teacher. Sugar's friendship with Even Howard blossoms, offering her a sense of belonging and understanding.

Chapters 11-15: Navigating Challenges and Embracing Hope

Despite the obstacles they face, Sugar and Reba maintain their resilience and determination. Sugar's passion for storytelling emerges, and she begins to find solace and purpose in her writing, sparking a sense of hope for the future.

Chapters 16-20: Uniting for a Brighter Future

Sugar's storytelling talent garners attention, leading to an opportunity to share her experiences and insights. Through the support of her community, including Mr. Bennett and Shush, Sugar takes steps toward building a more stable and hopeful future for herself and her mother.

Main Events

  1. Sugar and Reba's descent into homelessness
  2. Sugar's encounters with supportive individuals in the shelter and school
  3. The development of Sugar's friendship with Even Howard
  4. Sugar's burgeoning passion for storytelling and writing
  5. Sugar's journey toward advocating for herself and others experiencing homelessness

Themes and Insights

Resilience and Determination

The novel explores the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity, highlighting Sugar's unwavering determination and her mother's strength as they navigate homelessness.

Community and Support

Through the portrayal of supportive characters and the sense of community found in unexpected places, "Almost Home" emphasizes the importance of connection and compassion in overcoming challenges.

Hope and Empowerment

Sugar's journey toward embracing her storytelling talent and advocating for those experiencing homelessness underscores the themes of hope and empowerment, inspiring readers to find strength in their passions and voices.

Reader's Takeaway

"Almost Home" offers a poignant and uplifting narrative that resonates with readers of all ages. Through Sugar's journey, readers are reminded of the resilience of the human spirit, the significance of community support, and the power of hope in the face of adversity.


In "Almost Home," Joan Bauer crafts a captivating and emotionally resonant story that celebrates the strength, resilience, and hope found within individuals facing homelessness. Through Sugar Mae Cole's journey, readers are invited to explore themes of determination, compassion, and the transformative power of storytelling, leaving a lasting impression of optimism and human connection.

Almost Home FAQ

  1. What is the main theme of 'Almost Home'?

    The main theme of 'Almost Home' revolves around resilience, hope, and the power of determination in overcoming adversity.

  2. Who is the author of 'Almost Home'?

    Joan Bauer is the author of 'Almost Home.' She is known for her heartfelt and inspiring stories for young adult readers.

  3. What is the setting of 'Almost Home'?

    The story is set in Brooklyn, New York, and follows the journey of a young girl named Sugar Mae Cole as she faces numerous challenges in her life.

  4. What age group is 'Almost Home' suitable for?

    The book is suitable for young adult readers, typically recommended for ages 12 and above.

  5. What are some key lessons or messages in 'Almost Home'?

    Some key lessons in 'Almost Home' include the importance of perseverance, the impact of kindness, and the strength found in unlikely friendships.