For Ages
10 to 14

The Pura Belpré Honor winning novel in verse, in which a lost dog helps a lonely girl find a way home to her family . . . only for them to find family in each other along the way. From the Newbery Honor winning author of Iveliz Explains It All.

“Trust me: this book will touch your heart." —Barbara O’Connor, New York Times bestselling author of Wish

Titi Silvia leaves me by myself to unpack,
but it’s not like I brought a bunch of stuff.
How do you prepare for the unpreparable?
How do you fit your whole life in one bag?
And how am I supposed to trust social services
when they won’t trust me back?

Laura Rodríguez Colón has a plan: no matter what the grown-ups say, she will live with her parents again. Can you blame her? It’s tough to make friends as the new kid at school. And while staying at her aunt’s house is okay, it just isn’t the same as being in her own space.

So when Laura finds a puppy, it seems like fate. If she can train the puppy to become a therapy dog, then maybe she’ll be allowed to visit her parents. Maybe the dog will help them get better and things will finally go back to the way they should be.

After all, how do you explain to others that you’re technically a foster kid, even though you live with your aunt? And most importantly . . . how do you explain that you’re not where you belong, and you just want to go home?

An Excerpt fromSomething Like Home

Time and Space

The drive to Titi’s house takes exactly eighteen minutes.

I know because my current Rubik’s Cube solving time

is about two minutes,

and I solve my scratched-up, faded cube

a grand total of nine times.

I can feel Janet watching me in the rearview mirror,

probably wondering if I’m okay,

and I wish for the hundredth time that I could

twist my way out of her too-clean car,

line my life back up as easily as the sides of my cube,

erase all the ways I messed up this weekend,

so that instead of driving to the rich side of town,

I’d be at my parents’ bright red food truck,

and instead of a black bag of packed clothes at my feet,

I’d be dishing up plates of yellow rice for my friends.

Janet doesn’t actually care how I feel.

She’s just here ’cause it’s her job.

So even though she offers to carry my bag

after we park,

even though I’m sweating through my shirt

and my glasses keep slipping off,

I carefully put the cube in my sweatpant pocket,

lift my bagged-up things with my own two hands,

take a deep breath, ignoring Janet,

and start walking by myself toward my aunt’s door

and my weird


         new life.

Did You Know?

Most birds don’t recognize their family members

after more than a year has passed.

So it makes sense that I’m wearing

my favorite owl shirt

as I stare at a woman I don’t recognize,

but that Janet assures me is my aunt.

Titi Silvia is a doctor,

but one that looks like a model,

like the doctors on those TV shows

my mom won’t ever let me watch.

And even though I usually try not to care

about the clothes I wear or how they fit,

I definitely care today

as I feel her staring first at my hair

and then at my wrinkled clothes,

moving down to my socks and slides

and then back up to my stomach,

like everything about me

is out of place, different

from what she’d like.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to greet her,

this woman that is basically a stranger

and who looks nothing like me,

so I just shrug at her awkward hola,

wait for her to tell me where to put my stuff,

and then I leave her and Janet talking

and hide in the office,

   aka my (temporary) new room.

My Room That Is Not My Room

Titi Silvia’s apartment is beautiful,

but it almost doesn’t look real.

It’s all white and clean

and full of art that makes no sense,

and I can tell my aunt’s really tried to turn her office

into a bedroom for a kid,

because there’s a big inflatable mattress in the middle

and she’s added a princess blanket that is

pretty babyish

and way too pink,

which she probably bought

because she doesn’t know what sixth graders

actually like to watch on TV.

And if I was here for different reasons,

I’d probably just laugh at the blanket

and bounce on the inflatable bed,

but the problem is,

I’m supposed to actually live here.

Titi Silvia already mentioned

something about Ikea and furniture

as I slid past her in the hall,

and who wants a temporary place

to act like a forever one?

Especially when that place

is with a rich perfect stranger

who the social services people keep telling you

over and over and over

   is “safer” than your parents

   is a “good” solution

   is someone you’re “extremely lucky”

to have offered you a home.

My Aunt That Is Not My Aunt

I hear Janet leave

and I pick up my cube again.

Not because I want to practice,

but more ’cause I want to have an excuse

not to talk

if Titi Silvia decides to come in.

I don’t care what Janet says.

This is not where I want to be.

Especially when my aunt does walk in

(she doesn’t even knock!)

and starts talking to me in soft Spanish

   like we’re not strangers and

this is our shared language,

   like she’s always been around and

this is a super-normal visit

   and not what it actually is.

All I’ve ever heard about my titi

is that she’d never lend Mom money

   when we needed it,

never help Mom out

   when she was sick,

and Dad always tells me

to ask when I don’t know something,

to not keep my questions inside,

but even though I want to ask Titi why,

   why didn’t you help when we needed you?

   why did you wait until now to show up in my life?

it’s hard to ask questions

when you don’t want to know the answers anyway,

hard to talk when your head feels like

   it’s inside a bubble

and your body feels like

   shooting up into the air,

harder, even, than listening to my aunt’s constant

   hola Laura, hola mi amor

and so without looking up from my Rubik’s Cube,

I just lie and say:

   no hablo español.

Yo Sé

The truth is,

I do speak Spanish. A little bit.

Just not the way Titi Silvia does.

Dad was born here

and understands it better than he speaks it,

so I only ever spoke it with Mom.

And if I’m being honest,

whatever we were saying

was more of a mixed Spanglish

than whatever it is that Titi talks.

The food we sold at the food truck?

I got you.

Prices and customer service?

Nobody’s ever complained.

But Titi is fast-Spanishing awkward stuff

about her recycling system

and what my new school will be like,

and it’s not that I don’t understand her.

I do.

But not as perfectly as I did Mom.


Titi Silvia leaves me by myself to unpack,

but it’s not like I brought a bunch of stuff.

How do you prepare for the unpreparable?

How do you fit your whole life in one bag?

And how am I supposed to trust social services,

trust Janet,

when she won’t trust me back?

Questions I’ve Asked Janet

How long will I be with my aunt?

What will happen to our trailer?

What will happen to the things I don’t pack?

When can I talk to Mom?

When can I talk to Dad?

What does kinship care mean?

Why do I have a caseworker?

What even is a caseworker?

Do my parents know where I’m going?

Who knows where I’m going?

How long will I be with my aunt?

Is this because I called 911?

Is this my fault?

Answers Janet Has Given Me

Did You Know?

Some birds hold funerals

for the birds in their families

that have passed away.

Other birds will cry by empty nests

for a long time

hoping that the bird that died will

   wake up

   come back

so they can all go on

with their normal bird lives.

I’m not a bird,

but in case you can’t tell yet,

I kinda wish I was.

Their lives seem so much simpler

so much easier to understand.

My two-bedroom trailer is empty of people now,


and all because of me.

And it feels like everyone just wants me

to move on

to be cool.

But every time I think about

me living with my aunt,

think about my Crenwood neighbors

gossiping about where we are,

all I want to do is yell

really really loud,

shout at the world that this is not permanent

this is not forever

this was a mistake

and my parents are getting better

and if everyone would just wait a few days

would close their eyes and go to sleep

then everything would swirl back

(like it never even happened)

and we could all pretend

nothing ever, ever changed.

Riverview Elementary School

RES is bigger than my old school,



with student artwork on every wall.

My homeroom teacher is Ms. Holm,

whose classroom is full of books and plants,

and I’m happy to realize I’ll get to stay with her all day,

and not have to swap classrooms

and memorize schedules

that I know will just get me turned around.

Before? Stuff like that didn’t make me nervous.

Now? I feel so lost I could almost cry.

Too many changes,

too many new things,

too many goodbyes and hellos and

silences in the dark,

and so even though I know

I’ll only be at this school

for a tiny amount of time,

knowing where I’ll spend my day

knowing I have one assigned desk

with my name duct-taped on,

it’s not something I needed before,

but today?

It makes me feel like a little

snuggled-up parakeet.

It makes me feel calm.

Picture This

You’ve been in the same town

with the same kids

all the way from kindergarten

to sixth grade.

And sure,

maybe there’s been a new kid here and there,

but probably not a lot

and usually at the beginning of the year.

Then imagine you get to Riverview

on a windy October day,

on your very first year of middle school,

on Picture Day (!)

when you’re not expecting any more change,

and all of a sudden there’s a new girl

standing in front of your class,

a girl you’ve never seen before

but that clearly doesn’t belong here:

the food truck girl,

the fidgety girl,

the trailer girl

from all the way across town.

Just a Regular, Normal Kid

I try not to stand out,

really, I do.

I didn’t know it was Picture Day

when I got dressed this morning,

but I think my plain blue jeans

and black hoodie

are okay,

the gel I used this morning

keeping my thick and wavy brown hair

in a frizzy ponytail

that is at least


But I’m still the new kid,

which means Ms. Holm

asks me to introduce myself,

asks me to stand in front of the whole class,

’cause teachers somehow

still haven’t figured out

how obviously terrifying

having twenty-five pairs of eyes on you is.

How it leaves you with absolutely nowhere to hide.

The Introduction I Don’t Make


My name is Laura [LAH-OO-RAH]

and I used to live on the other side

of Loumack County, Virginia,

in the Crenwood Trailer Park,

but now (and just for now)

I live with my aunt in this part of town.

My parents are in rehab,

which is why I’m here,

in a school that hands out

organic blueberry muffins for breakfast

and has no writing on the bathroom stalls,

in a classroom where

probably everyone has a perfect family

and nobody has any secrets

and even though I wish

you were all nice and friendly,

I have a feeling

you’re not.

The Introduction I Do Make


I’m Laura [LAW-RAH].

I Miss My Friends Back Home

I spend my lunch period in the library,

because my amazing introduction

didn’t really win me any new friends,

and as I play alone

with the basket of fidget toys

set out on one of the tables,

I wish

(for the hundredth time)

that I knew how to explain to

Remedios, Pilar, and Betsaida

that I didn’t ghost them,

I got taken,

that nobody asked me or cared

what I thought about the whole thing at all,

and if it had been up to me

and not social services,

I would have stayed with my parents,

I would have never left home.


I know I messed up back in Crenwood.

Janet and Titi don’t have to say it out loud

for me to understand that it’s true.

But just because I let my parents down

   this time

doesn’t mean I will again.

And if Janet thinks I’m just going to

forget everything that happened

   she’s wrong

because I already repacked

everything I had unpacked,

my black bag sitting in the closet

all ready to go.

I just have to find a way to fix this,

find a way to undo this,

and then I’ll be back with Mom and Dad

and they’ll be perfectly okay

and I’ll never

never ever

have to make another decision

ever again.

Someone Is Always Watching

I may not have a phone,

but I do have a laptop now,

since every student at Riverview

gets their own to take home.

And when I google Harmonic Way

(the place Janet said my parents are at),

I see pictures of smiling people

and gardens full of singing cardinals

and board games and crafts and baking,

though the Google reviews

are only at 2.9 out of 5.

I’m about to click into some of them,

the reviews,

to try to read what people have to say,

but then my neck hairs start tingling

and my arm hairs start prickling

and when I look up,

there’s a kid with braids next to me at the table


and I slam my laptop shut.

Trust Is Overrated

The kid introduces himself as Benson, he/him.

Says he’s in sixth grade (but not my class),

and although I eye him suspiciously,

I tell him I’m Laura, she/her,

and in Ms. Holm’s class.

Benson is Black and short and skinny,

but what I most notice

is his humongous smile--

like we’ve been friends our entire lives

and are just meeting for lunch to catch up.

And even though I’m pretty sure I’m frowning,

he still tosses his stickered water bottle

   up and down,

smiling at me in between sips,

his eyes twinkling into a laugh.

He’s weird, this Benson.

Too friendly. Too nice.

But just as I’m about to make an excuse,

say something like how I need to head back to class,

the bell rings

       (thank you, thank you)

and I hurry out,

laptop and backpack in hand.

Dad would tell me I’m being rude,

but it’s not like he’s here to see this anyway.

And I’m not sure what Janet from social services

would say,

but she definitely made it clear

back at my trailer

that she thought I should feel grateful

for my aunt and my new school,

which she talks about like it’s

   a forever thing,

a “positive” change.

Basically, adults know nothing.

Nothing nothing period.

And as for me? I’m definitely not ready

to explain to anyone

and especially not any of the kids

at this rich, temporary school

why I live where I live.

My After-School Routine Because I Live with a Very Controlling Aunt

Get off the bus at the Stonecreek Apartments

and walk to building 1380,

then climb the stairs to apartment C.

Connect my laptop to the Wi-Fi

and then message Titi at work to tell her

   I’m here

even though she could definitely

just check her doorbell camera,


(like I’m some sort of prisoner)

already records me on the way in.

Titi Silvia Is the Worst


and I mean organized

to the extreme.

She has schedules for everything

   like for cleaning (yuck)

and for eating

   or for how she washes and blow-dries her hair

every Tuesday and Friday night, no exceptions,

before pulling it back into a tight bun.

Under the Cover