“A Million Ways Home” by Dianna Dorisi Winget is a middle grade fiction book that is filled with adventure, humor, danger and lots of feeling.
Poppy, the protagonist, lives with her grandmother after losing her parents as a baby. She still harbors feelings of resentment that they abandoned her to travel and work in another country. They left her in the care of her grandmother and then they were killed.
But Poppy and her grandmother get along fine. Her grandmother is a wonderful and loving caretaker, so when she falls and ends up in a nursing home, Poppy is bereft. She doesn’t know how to live without her grandmother. Also, the children’s home where she is living is horrible. Her roommate is abusive and threatens her, and Poppy just wants to see her grandmother to make sure she’s okay.
Poppy is a typical ten-year-old. She doesn’t follow the rules, and when she tries to find her grandmother, she ends up in the middle of a murder scene. Poppy is the only witness.
Poppy ends up in an unusual witness-protection program. She stays with the policeman’s mother until the criminal can be found. Along the way, she takes up the cause of a German shepherd whose days may be numbered if he can’t learn to behave. Poppy is the only one who believes in him.
This story has many elements that will appeal to middle grade readers. There is lots of action, there is excitement, and there is a dog. Poppy is spunky and doesn’t always make the best decisions. That makes this a great book to use for classroom discussion (or a book club). Poppy is a great protagonist -- conflicted, determined, passionate, impulsive and compassionate.
Like real life, the book doesn’t have a completely happy ending, but the ending is satisfying nonetheless. This would be a great read aloud for fourth or fifth grade, and a great recommendation for readers who like realistic fiction.
Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Scholastic Press, for review purposes.
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