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About The Book

A ghost saved twelve-year-old Maddie’s life when she was an infant, her Granny Lane claims, so Maddie must always remember that she is special. But it’s hard to feel special when you’ve spent your life shuffled from one foster home to another. And now that she’s at the East Tennessee Children’s Home, Maddie feels even less special.

She longs for a place to call home. She even has a “book of houses” in which she glues pictures of places she’d like to live. Then one day, a new girl, Murphy, shows up at the Home armed with tales about exotic travels, being able to fly, and boys who recite poetry to wild horses. When Murphy offers Maddie something she has never had before, Maddie begins to wonder if she has finally found someone who feels like home.

Reading Group Guide

Maddie lives in the East Tennessee Children's Home. Ricky Ray, age six, is her special friend. Then Murphy, a new girl, comes to the home telling wonderful stories about her previous life. Maddie doesn't know whether to believe them but enjoys them anyway. Maddie makes scrapbooks of houses, houses cut from magazines, houses where she'd like to live. The children build a fort with the help and in the yard of Logan, who has a home and a family. The children make scrapbooks and weave stories about how they would like their lives to be.
Adoption; Orphans and foster children; Friendship; Imagination.
• Why do you think Murphy tells such stories about herself?
• Do you think Penny Korda will adopt Maddie and Ricky?
• Why did Maddie bury the books? What was the symbolism?
• Maddie was judging the other children by her first impressions. Why can that sometimes be wrong?
• How did Logan's mother change during the story?
• Start a scrapbook of your favorite things -- faces, clothes, toys, etc.
• Draw a map of what you think the fort looks like. Where are the doors, windows, and furniture?
• Maddie collects pictures of houses to decide which one she wants for herself. What would your ideal home be like? Draw a picture or write a description.
• Read some other books about foster children, such as Pictures of Hollis Wood by Patricia Reilly Giff, The Pinballs by Betsy Byars, and The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson. How are they alike and different?
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Marj Lloyd
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Author

Photograph (c) Clifton Dowell

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to BeThe Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far AwayChicken BoyShooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Award; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling InThe Second Life of Abigail Walker, which received three starred reviews; Anybody Shining; Ten Miles Past NormalTrouble the Water; the Sam the Man series; The ClassHow to Build a Story; and most recently, Hazard. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (March 26, 2013)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439132272
  • Grades: 5 - 9
  • Ages: 10 - 14
  • Lexile ® 910L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

* "A lovely, quietly bittersweet tale of friendship and family."

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A celebration of friendship and of the healing powers of the imagination."

– Publishers Weekly

"Unique and memorable."

– School Library Journal

"A choice read aloud. Tough issues, difficult situations, engaging characters, and a tentative ending provide ample discussion possibilities."

– Booklist

Awards and Honors

  • ILA/CBC Children's Choices
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award Reading List (KS)
  • ABC Children's Bookseller's Choices
  • Land of Enchantment RoadRunner Award Nominee (NM)

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More books from this author: Frances O'Roark Dowell