Stay by Bobbie Pyron
Genres: Middle Grade, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3-
View on Goodreads
Piper’s life is turned upside down when her family moves into a shelter in a whole new city. She misses her house, her friends, and her privacy—and she hates being labeled the homeless girl at her new school. But while the shelter, Hope House, offers her new challenges, it also brings new friendships, like the girls in Firefly Girls Troop 423 and a sweet street dog named Baby. So when Baby’s person goes missing, Piper knows she has to help. But helping means finding the courage to trust herself and her new friends, no matter what anyone says about them—before Baby gets taken away for good.
Wow, talk about a book that was designed with every possible mechanism to make adult readers cry. Poverty and homelessness, mental illness, a dog, girls working together for the better of people other than themselves, seeing the best in life. It would be a bald-faced lie to say I didn’t boo-hoo my way through this book.
Ultimately the strength of this novel is the nuanced way in which is presents homelessness. Piper and her family have hit a rough patch (medical bills plus layoffs plus a dead landlord) that has wound them up in a homeless shelter in a new city. The family deals with the difficult transition to being dependent on others and the social stigmatization of being homeless. Doesn’t stop them from judging the people who live on the street, or from being afraid of them. But in the end Piper and her family learn that homeless people are people who deserve to be loved and happy. This is an ESSENTIAL lesson that we MUST teach to children. The homeless are homeless for many reasons, but rarely is it because they are “lazy”.
I found the dog-POV chapters to be unnecessary, even though they were so heartwarming. Nothing like a cute animal to bring out the best in everyone, no? Still, it’s too bad that it took a cute dog for anyone to care about the sick owner.
This book relies pretty heavily on the themes to carry it through. The writing is nothing special, and Piper is your typical kid. Her friends had more character, and honestly I would have preferred to read the book from their eyes. But it does the job it needs to do and communicated the message it set out to communicate.
I loved this book and can’t recommended it highly enough for middle school or mature elementary readers. I don’t see it being a book that really captures their interest enough to pick it up without being told to, though.