When friendship followed me home by Paul Griffin
Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925355499
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Cancer, Death and Dying, Families, Orphans, Friendship. Sixty five year old Tess, a speech therapist, adopts one of her clients, Ben and takes him home, giving him something he has never experienced before - a loving mother. One day a scruffy little dog follows him and joins his new family. Ben has lived most of his twelve years in foster homes and friendship and home are two things always out of his reach until now. But the dog introduces him to both. A rainbow girl at the local library who wears crazy colours and wigs over her chemo induced bald head challenges his view of things around him. Her mother, the librarian, allows him to bring Flip the dog into the library encouraging him to do a dog obedience class with Flip, leading to their participation in a reading program.
But Tess dies and Ben is alone again, although this time taken in by Tess' sister and her partner, Leo. But things do not work out with Leo, and Ben finds that he and Flip are alone again, this time, homeless. But his new friends seek him out and take him home.
A wonderfully emotive story about finding one's place the story of Ben and his dog, Flip and their friend, Halley, will more than satisfy upper primary and lower secondary readers. Halley is a wonderful character, full of concern for her new friend, as she makes up a story, The Magic Box, which they write together, her leading him along to accept a future without her, but along the way, finding a home.
Readers will gain some understanding of what life with cancer is like as Halley goes from one round of chemotherapy to another, finally refusing the last experimental drug. And they will certainly understand the importance of one close friend, one who will clean up the sick and rub her back as she vomits into the toilet. Ben is so conditioned to seeing things are always his fault that he finds it difficult to accept the home her parents offer him. This is a heart wrenching read so be warned.
Teacher's notes are available.