Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Dog...A Home

If you think about it, people tend to use the terms house and home interchangeably.  To me a house is the structure, the building.  What's inside, the people, the feeling of hospitality, warmth, and love, are what make it a home.

When a piece is forever lost from a home, those left feel the emptiness until the spot can be filled.  In her debut book, Sarah Lean, deftly weaves a story of a family's loss in  A Dog Called Homeless.  Searching for a new normal is never easy.

My name is Cally Louise Fisher, and I haven't spoken for thirty-one days.

Cally has just seen her Mom but no one will believe her.  The family is gathered graveside to honor the one year anniversary of her death; the same day as her Dad's birthday.  Scolding Cally for having an overactive imagination does no good because she knows her Mom has something to tell them.

Glued to his computer screen, trying to top the best score on a video game during every spare moment, her 13-year-old brother, Luke views her as more pest than sister.  Plopping down on the sofa, watching one detective show after another, when home from work, her Dad seems to have no time to spend with her.  Feeling frustrated for the lack of conversation at home about her Mom, Cally has become too talkative, disruptive, at school.

Everyone at home and at school, classmates, teacher and special needs counselor, are therefore surprised when Cally volunteers for a day of sponsored silence to raise money for a children's hospice; needing to prove to one and all she is better than they believe she is.  Seeing her Mom again, this time with an Irish wolfhound at her side, gets Cally into further trouble.  In town to run errands with her Dad and brother, she offers help to a homeless juggler, Jed.  When Jed walks away, her Mom appears at his side.

On the day her Dad tells Luke and Cally their home has been sold and they're moving into the top floor of an apartment, Cally sees Jed again...with the dog.  Even though her self-imposed quiet has passed Cally has chosen to not speak, her silence saying volumes if only someone would understand.  Someone does understand.  On the first floor of their new home lives Sam, blind and nearly deaf, with his Mom.

Sam and Cally...Sam, Cally and the dog Cally has named Homeless...Sam, Cally, Homeless and Jed...Sam, Cally, Homeless, Jed and Cally's Mom are all tied together with heart and promises, with love.  The strength Cally and Sam find in their friendship sustains each as they face what no child should have to face.  One event after another builds to an ending (not without those breath-holding moments) which surprises but offers hope, hope for healing.

Even now, when rereading a single sentence, paragraphs, pages, even whole chapters, the writing of Sarah Lean continues to speak in a language as powerful as it was the first time.  Each character's role, whether big or small, their dialogue and interactions, is integral to the story.  Her vivid descriptions of place bring you into the story, side by side with the characters.

Here is a sampling of her writing from this title. (This is one of those porcupine books; so many sticky note markers for good spots.)

So I said, "Dad? What if I can't help it and I say something?
He squeezed me.
"I won't mind.  You'll be doing your best."
He went off in a dream, opened the curtains, sent the dust fairies into the shadows.
So that was it.  My best didn't sound like much.  He was just the same as all the others who didn't think I could do it.
"I'll mind," I whispered to the invisible spinning dust.  And those were my final words.

Just then I made my one and only rule for not speaking.  I was allowed to laugh.  Because laughing isn't words.  Nobody knows what you are saying, but everyone knows what you mean.  Even a dog.

Having been moved to tears more than once, it is my belief this story will resonate with every single reader.  A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean envelopes you until the final page, lingering, finding a spot in your mind and soul.

Sarah Lean has a website completely devoted to this title.  (Link here)  An excerpt from the beginning is provided along with further reading about topics touched upon within the story.  There is an outstanding downloadable PDF resource for discussion with activities.

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