Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
- Reading age: 9 to 12
My name is Lee Mets (honest), and this is my book I’m part of the writing club, which is fantastic, since what I want to be most is a writer. My mother says that girls don’t grow up to be writers, they can only be nurses or teachers. But it’s the 1960s, not the 50s or 40s, and I think she may be wrong. Mrs. Gowdy, who is my writing teacher, says that I have a gift. I’m going to use it to tell you the story of my summer. It was a summer that was both wonderful and terribly sad. The sad part is still painful for me to write about, but I will because that’s what writers do. My summer began with the most exciting thing that ever happened on our street. A real-life orphan, by the name of Cassandra Jovanovich, moved in right across from my house. All the best stories are about orphans, and because of Cassandra, this story is no exception. Because of her, I got to write a play, and she starred in it. Because of her, I now know that being an orphan is not exciting, in fact it is the opposite. But you’ll have to read my story to find out why.
About the author
Sharon Jennings has been published for 27 years. She is the author of over 70 books for young people – board books, picture books, reluctant reads, novels – many of which have been nominated for numerous awards and even won a few! Her middle grade novel Home Free was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, The Silver Birch Award, and the TD Award. Her latest books are Connecting Dots, a completely true work of fiction about a girl’s terrible, horrible life, and The Warning, a completely true collection of stories about the supernatural. Sharon is very involved with her community, serving as a Board Member of The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and is a three term President of The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP).
Home FreeLeanna Mets is an aspiring 11-year-old writer. Her mother tells her that “good girls” grow up to be nurses or teachers, not writers! But it’s the 1960s and Leanna hopes her mother is wrong.
Leanna loves the story of Anne of Green Gables and romanticizes about being an orphan. When Cassandra Jovanovich moves in across the street, Leanna meets her first ‘real-life orphan’ but soon learns that being an orphan is no fun at all. As Cassandra and Leanna bring the play Leanna has written to the stage, their friendship grows and, when tragedy touches Leanna’s life, it’s Cassandra who helps her deal with her loss. After learning about a poem Leanna wrote for her dad, Leanna’s mom acquiesces and allows her to join the Writing Club at school.
Sharon Jennings’s writing is witty and brought many a smile to my face as I read this delightful novel. She transported me back to my own childhood with mention of humbug mints and wearing your best dress and hat to church on Sunday. The brief chapters and humour will hold the interest of even the most reluctant readers in the junior/intermediate grades.
Jennings brilliantly intertwines details from Anne of Green Gables into Home Free which will either inspire children to read it for themselves or pleasantly remind them of this Canadian classic. Just as L.M. Montgomery gave us a strong-willed character in Anne, Jennings models Leanna in much the same way. There are many themes both obvious and underlying (peer pressure, death, parent /child conflict, etc.) to be discussed with student readers and the issues are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2009. Vol.32 No.3.
Home Free (Gutsy Girl Book)Growing up in the 1960s, 12-year-old Lee Mets defies convention by wanting to be a writer. She is a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables and is most excited when a mysterious orphan moves to the neighbourhood.
Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2010.