When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin (2016)

whenfriendship_front-165x248If you want issues, this book has got them.  Lots of them.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9780803738164 )

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: resigned, exploratory

Pace: moderate

Topics: dogs, cancer, writing, magicians, libraries, adoptees, abuse

Themes: illness, belonging, finding meaning, grief and loss, death, change

Summary: Ben Coffin knows from foster care that people can leave you without a good-bye. That’s why he prefers to hide out in the Coney Island library with his sci-fi novels, until he rescues an abandoned dog from the alley next door. Scruffy little Flip introduces Ben to fellow book lover Halley—yes, like the comet. Some call her Rainbow Girl for her crazy-colored clothes, but for Ben it’s her laugh, pure magic, the kind that makes you smile away the stormiest day.

Rainbow Girl convinces “Sci-Fi Boy” to write a novel with her. What begins as a time-travel story ends up a mystery, one that has haunted Ben for as long as he can remember: If friendship is the greatest treasure of all, why can’t it last forever? Paul Griffin’s middle-grade debut will warm your heart as much as it breaks it with the story of two unforgettable kids at the crossroads of love and loss, helping each other find their way home. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Readers who want to feel all the feels will be feeling this book. It’s chock full of tragedy, but the protagonist, Ben, remains relatively stable (all things considered), so it doesn’t get too bogged down in depression.

Who won’t like this book?: This book covers a lot of heavy topics, which means it can’t  go too deeply into any one of them. Readers looking for a specific topic or wanting something focused may find better choices elsewhere.

Other comments: If you haven’t guessed already, this book is sad. A colleague of mind suggested that this is a good choice for middle schoolers who aren’t quite ready for The Fault in Our Stars. Despite what it may seem, this isn’t really a dog book. The dog is an important character, but I don’t feel the book centers on the dog.

Sequel(s):

Readalikes: Some other books about boys dealing with big topics: Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick; The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart; and Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. If you’ve got a reader looking for dog books, YALSA’s The Hub has some ideas.

-Kylie Peters

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