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Carry Me Home


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About The Book

“A poignant and powerful reminder that homelessness is not hopelessness.” —Kirby Larson, author of Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky

Two sisters struggle to keep their father’s disappearance a secret in this tender middle grade novel that’s perfect for fans of Katherine Applegate and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Twelve-year-old Lulu and her younger sister, Serena, have a secret. As Daddy always says, “it’s best if we keep it to ourselves,” and so they have. But hiding your past is one thing. Hiding where you live—and that your Daddy has gone missing—is harder.

At first Lulu isn’t worried. Daddy has gone away once before and he came back. But as the days add up, with no sign of Daddy, Lulu struggles to take care of the responsibilities they used to manage as a family.

Lulu knows that all it takes is one slip-up for their secret to come spilling out, for Lulu and Serena to be separated, and for the good things that have been happening in school to be lost.

But family is all around us, and Lulu must learn to trust her new friends and community to save those she loves and to finally find her true home.


Chapter 1: Now 1 Now

THE DAY Lulu’s daddy disappeared was, so far, the coldest morning of the year.

That’s why she was still curled up tight under the blankets and pressed, back to warm back, against Serena when the sun shot a ray at the mirror that reflected onto Lulu’s face, waking her hard. She squeezed her eyes and rubbed them, saying out loud, “What?”

She was asking the sun, What?

Then, “Daddy?”

Lulu sat up. The Suburban’s windows were fogged and Serena stayed asleep. Their daddy was not in the back seat. His blankets were folded into squares, the way he always started his day. But today he’d started his day without waking them, without the usual rituals of wet cloth to wipe their faces, the bottle of water and toothbrush to clean their teeth, because as Daddy had said, “No matter what, girls, we will practice good hygiene. Cleanliness is right there next to godliness.”

Lulu, when he’d said this, when she was little and didn’t know her words, envisioned a pair of high jeans, what she’d now call mom jeans, on a saintly figure, halo, raised eyes, with prayerful hands.

Now that she was all of twelve she knew what hygiene was. She even knew how it was spelled.

Lulu rubbed at the window as her surprise was replaced by confusion and then by a knot in her chest. Her hand made a round hole on the foggy damp glass but she couldn’t see anything through the branches that encased the Suburban. Nothing moved, except the sun, which now filled the car with cold light.

It wasn’t Saturday. Or Sunday. It was Thursday, a school day, and they were going to be late.

Where was Daddy? The knot tightened.

“Reenie,” Lulu said, and shook her sister’s shoulder. “Wake up.”

Serena stirred, and her face emerged from the thicket of blankets. “Sup?”

“We’re late.” Lulu could tell, because it was September and the sun was at that particular slant, that they should already be well on their way. She grabbed the water bottle and wet the cloth and rubbed it rough over her face before handing it to Serena. She yanked on her sweatshirt and jeans and pushed over the seat back from the rear into the second seat where their daddy should be, then shoved the door open with her shoulder.

Man, it was chilly.

Lulu rubbed at her arms and hopped a little, foot to foot, before looking to make sure no one was able to see as she relieved herself behind the car. By the time Serena was dressed and out Lulu had cleaned her teeth and found their jackets and backpacks. She hopped foot to foot again against the shivers as she waited for Serena to finish her morning routine. “Let’s go, let’s go.”

“I’m hungry,” Serena whined. “Where’s Daddy?”

“No time. Gotta go,” Lulu answered. It was all she said because it was almost all she knew. Except for this.

When no one else could—could step up, could step in, could do what needed doing—Lulu would.


Where was Daddy?

About The Author

Photograph © Ashleigh Taylor Portrait

Janet Fox is an author, mom, outdoor enthusiast, and former teacher. She’s been to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible and had a brief fling with rock stardom. Her award-winning stories include picture books through young adult novels but have won her fans of all ages. She lives in Bozeman, Montana. Find out more at

Why We Love It

“This novel showcases the beauty of family in its many forms and community. Lulu and Serena’s journey will stay with you, long after you’ve read the last page.”

—Krista V., Senior Editor, on Carry Me Home

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 16, 2022)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534485099
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Raves and Reviews

“A poignant and powerful reminder that homelessness is not hopelessness.”

– Kirby Larson, author of Newbery Honor book HATTIE BIG SKY

"A beautiful, haunting story that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. It’s a poignant reminder of the strength kids can possess when they realize they’re the only one holding their world together. I devoured it, breathlessly, and it carried my heart away with it."


“A story about falling through the cracks and finding the light inside that darkness. Carry Me Home is absorbing, moving, and deeply truthful.”

– Martha Brockenbrough, author of THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH

Twelve-year-old Lulu must care for her little sister when they are left homeless and alone.

The girls’ father disappears one morning from the Chevy Suburban in which he, Lulu, and Selena live. They’ve been in an RV park in Montana since driving up from Texas, where the girls’ mother died after a devastating, financially ruinous illness. For two weeks, Lulu manages to keep up the routine (food bank, laundromat, and picking up Selena from her after-school program), fending off queries about her dad. The narrative focus stays tightly with Lulu’s point of view, her understanding of the world informing her decisions. She’s afraid to ask for help, believing that she and Selena will be separated if anyone finds out about their situation. Lulu, the target of the contempt of some classmates, is befriended by both Jack, a boy who persuades her to try out for the school musical, and the town librarian, who unwittingly provides a refuge. Fox offers a message via Jack when he learns about Lulu’s life: “No one should have to live in a car.” Cranes—paper ones that Lulu and Selena fold, inspired by both the story of Hiroshima survivor Sadako Sasaki and the sandhill cranes migration—represent wishes granted and a kind of grace, leading to a satisfying, redemptive conclusion nicely pitched to a young audience. All the characters seem to be White.

Sobering and convincing. (author's note)

– Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2021

After her mother’s death, 12-year-old Lulu has been living in a run-down SUV with her younger sister, Serena, and their devastated father. Montana is a far cry from their familiar Texas, but they’ve made it work, setting up camp in an RV park, spending days at school and work, and sleeping in the car at night. Dad promises better days ahead, but their precarious existence is upended when, one day, he fails to return home. An increasingly anxious Lulu carries on as usual, fearing sibling separation if anyone finds out. Waiting for her father’s return, she dodges questions and cares for Serena while navigating middle school and increasingly suspicious (but kind) townspeople. Fox’s moving story is told in flashes of the “Now,” “Before,” and “Way Before,” slowly and affectingly filling in the family’s history, as well as a detailed explanation of their situation. A reassuring but realistic ending encourages readers to ask for help when needed and emphasizes that there is always someone who will care. A compassionate and empathetic examination of being unhoused.

– Booklist, August 1, 2021

Awards and Honors

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title
  • Maine Student Book Award Reading List
  • Truman Reader Award Final Nominee (MO)
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection Title
  • Sunshine State Young Readers Award, Grades 3-5 List (FL)

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

  • Author Photo (jpg): Janet Fox
    Photograph © Ashleigh Taylor Portrait
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    Any use of an author photo must include its respective photo credit