A Million Ways Home

Last night, I finished one more of the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget. Those who know me can take one look at the book’s cover and figure out why I was a little hesitant to read this one.

That’s right. There’s a dog on the cover.

Well, I read the book anyway, and I have to admit that I’m glad I did. Though the dog plays a part in things, he’s not the major focus of the book. That honor goes to Poppy, a girl dealing with much more than any kid should be expected to handle.


After Poppy Parker’s grandmother suffers a stroke, the girl is sent to live in the North Shore Children’s Center. Poppy hates it here (with good reason), and she’s willing to do just about anything to reunite with her grandmother…even run away.

Poppy tries to make her way to the hospital to see Grandma Beth, but things quickly turn south. After a brief stop at a convenience store, Poppy becomes the sole witness to a horrible crime, an armed robbery and murder. The suspect knows her face and her name, so Poppy is placed under police protection, specifically in the home of Detective Trey Brannigan and his mother, Marti.

It doesn’t take long for Poppy to feel safe in this temporary home. She likes her caregivers, and she enjoys helping Marti at the animal shelter. She even manages to make a couple of friends–one human and one canine. Lizzie, the human, is a girl with troubles of her own. Gunner, the canine, is a beautiful German Shepherd who isn’t all that different from Lizzie. Both of them need someone to love them and be patient with them, and that person is Poppy.

Even with all these positives, though, Poppy longs for things to go back to the way they used to be. She wants her grandmother to get better. She wants to go back to their apartment and not have all these worries weighing on her. Surely, life can one day be normal again for Poppy and and her grandmother.

Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. There’s still the matter of a dangerous criminal on the loose and looking for Poppy. Also, Grandma Beth isn’t recovering like Poppy hoped she would. Things are looking bleak, and Poppy doesn’t know what to do.

Will Poppy ever be able to return home? Will her grandmother get better? Will the police ever catch the guy putting Poppy in danger? And what will happen with Lizzie and Gunner?

Learn how Poppy navigates through the waters of uncertainty, friendship, grief, and love to find her way home when you read A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget.


A Million Ways Home is a quick, moving, and entertaining read that is sure to appeal to upper elementary and middle grade readers. Readers will empathize with Poppy and wonder what they would do if placed in similar situations.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that it is too “busy.” There’s already a lot going on in this book–Poppy’s reluctance to go back to the children’s center, her encounter with a criminal, Grandma Beth’s illness, Gunner’s fate, Lizzie’s problems, etc. Adding revelations about Poppy’s parents, Trey’s regrets, and even Lizzie’s issues with her dad, in my opinion, muddy the waters a bit and make the narrative confusing at times. I understand why the author included these details, but I didn’t feel like they contributed a great deal to the story as a whole. Just my two cents.

My issues aside, I do think my students will enjoy A Million Ways Home, and I’m happy it’s on next year’s SCCBA list. Now, I get to figure out how to sum up this book in a minute-long book trailer to help me with promoting it! (Check my library’s YouTube channel later to see what I come up with.)

For more information on A Million Ways Home and other books by Dianna Dorisi Winget, visit the author’s website.

Happy reading!

How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog)

So, one of my goals this summer is to read all of the nominees for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.  (Those that regularly follow this blog have probably already figured that out.)  I’m about halfway through the list, and there have already been some standouts (The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and a couple of others).  Unfortunately, there have also been a couple that I wasn’t overly fond of.  (The worst was probably What’s for Dinner?, a poetry book about animals’ eating habits.  It was nothing short of disgusting.  Then again, I probably shouldn’t have read it right before lunch.  Lesson learned.)  Anyway, my latest read, How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog) by Art Corriveau, is one of the SCCBA nominees that I didn’t particularly like.  Don’t get me wrong.  The story was decent.  I just didn’t find the main character, Nicky Flynn, to be especially likeable or admirable.  Maybe my students will disagree with me, but I kind of hope they use Nicky’s character as an example of what not to do in most circumstances.

Nothing is going well for eleven-year-old Nicky Flynn. His parents are getting divorced. He’s been forced to move from his big house in a great neighborhood to a small apartment in a less-than-great neighborhood. Nicky’s mad at his mom because he thinks she always lies to him and tries to keep him away from his dad.  He’s in a new school and is becoming the target of bullies. He has to go to therapy every week to talk about his feelings. And now, his mom has decided to bring a dog into his life (totally without talking to him about it, by the way).  She got Reggie, a German Shepherd, from the animal shelter, but this is no ordinary dog.  Reggie is a retired seeing-eye dog, and, right away, he makes Nicky’s life a bit more interesting…

Nicky and Reggie grow closer (become best friends, really), and Nicky wants to know more about Reggie’s former life as a guide dog.  He investigates a little and learns more about Reggie’s previous owner.  He lies A LOT in his quest for the truth about Reggie’s past.  Will he ever figure out what happened between Reggie and his former owner?  Well, kind of, but that won’t really help with the mess his life is becoming…

Nicky is on the verge of losing everything, including Reggie.  As his whole life spirals out of control–and his lies are uncovered–how can Nicky hold on to the one being that is always there for him?  And what will Nicky do when his own selfishness and recklessness places both him and his beloved dog in a situation that is more dangerous than he can possibly realize?  Will Nicky ever get back in control of his own life?  And will he be able to stay with Reggie when the truth is revealed?  Find out when you read How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog) by Art Corriveau.

As an elementary librarian in South Carolina, I will promote this book as part of the SC Book Award program, but I definitely plan to discuss this book with my students.  I’d like to talk to them about why Nicky is not a character to be emulated.  Sure, he had some strong points–his love for his dog, for one–but, like I said before, he was not a very admirable character.  He lied at the drop of a hat, he had a rather bad temper, and he didn’t think about how his actions impacted those around him.  He did learn a few things in the end, but the adult in me still cringes at some of the stunts he pulled throughout the book.  (I wasn’t impressed with the adults in this book either.  They were clueless.)

There were a few things I did like about this book (lest you think I’m being completely negative).  I enjoyed how Nicky wanted to learn more about seeing-eye dogs.  He applied his research and knowledge to strengthen his relationship with Reggie.  I also liked the setting of this book.  It’s set in and around Boston, and Nicky and Reggie explore several sites that are of interest to readers learning about the American Revolution.  The ending was also kind of satisfying.  Nicky learned a little about himself and his mom, and I think, if there are future books about this character, those lessons might make him a little more likeable.

There are a couple of instances of bad language (not too bad, though) in this book.  That, in combination with the discussions that need to take place about Nicky’s behavior, make this book more suitable for upper elementary (mature 4th and 5th graders) and middle school students.

For more information about this book and others by author Art Corriveau, visit http://www.artcorriveau.com/.