All the Way Homeby Patricia Reilly Giff, Yearling, 2003, 167 pages, ISBN: 0440411823
It's the late summer of 1941, and Mariel and Brick have two things in common: love for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who haven't come close to winning a pennant in 20 years, and a strong desire to go back to their hometown, Windy Hill. Mariel lives in Brooklyn with her adoptive mother Loretta, the nurse who cared for Mariel when she was hospitalized with polio. Mariel has dim memories of her birth mother and longs to go back to Windy Hill to find out what happened to her.
Brick moves in with Loretta and Mariel after his family's apple orchard is destroyed by fire, compelling his family to separate. His father takes a job in a factory 50 miles north of Windy Hill; his mother goes to Philadelphia to nurse a sick woman, and Brick is sent to live with Loretta, an old friend of his mother. At first Brick and Mariel barely speak to one another, but at Brick's first Brooklyn Dodgers game, the two bond when Mariel catches a ball slugged into the stands by rookie Pete Reiser.
In spite of the great friendship that he develops with Mariel, Brick decides he must go back to Windy Hill to help Claude, the old farmer who owns the orchard next to Brick's family's orchard. Because Claude's hands were badly burned by the fire that destroyed Brick's family apple trees, he cannot pick his apples and has no one to do it for him. Without Brick's help Claude will loose his harvest.
The two friends help each other find their way home and discover that their destinations intertwine in Windy Hilly. With themes of isolation, friendship, loyalty, and the strong pull of home, All the Way Home is a good story for middle school readers. It's a quick read, one that the most challenged students will be able to finish, yet the story is engaging enough to satisfy the most accomplished middle-school reader.