When friendship followed me home by Paul Griffin
Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925355499
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Friendship. Dogs. Cancer. Editor's Choice in the New York Times. A heart wrenching but uplifting story, When friendship followed me home, is the tale of Ben Coffin, a 12 year old who is in foster care. All seems fine, he has adopted a scruffy little dog, called Flip and enjoys reading sci-fi at the library. When Ben meets Halley, the librarian's daughter, he believes he has a friend, but his foster mother Tess, dies and Ben finds himself once again trying to cope. He goes to live with Jeanie, Tess's sister, but her partner Leo has anger management issues and he faces loss and isolation.
Ben is a beautifully realised and remarkable character. As his friendship with Halley develops he is the strong one who is optimistic and caring as she deals with her cancer. Together they begin to write a story called The magic box, and Halley refuses to tell him what is in it (what a wonderful surprise that will be for the reader!) His resilience, his compassion and his humility make this a stand out story. Then of course there is the little dog Flip who has lots of tricks that endear him as a therapy dog when he works with Ben and Halley helping children to learn to read.
Halley's parents are also beautifully portrayed and the relationship that Ben gradually builds up with them is heart-warming. Halley's father is a magician and when Ben begins to work with him, he starts to have confidence in himself and begins to feel at home in the family.
Although I shed many tears throughout When friendship followed me home, the kindness of Ben and Halley's family, and of Tess, his foster mother shone through reminding the reader that helpfulness and friendship are all important even though there is abandonment, domestic violence and poverty in the world.
This is a feel good book that won't easily be forgotten. It would make an outstanding read aloud, class text or literature circle novel. Teacher's notes are available.