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Just Under the Clouds

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  502 ratings  ·  150 reviews
Can you still have a home if you don't have a house?

Always think in threes and you'll never fall, Cora's father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn.

But now Cora is a middle schooler, a big sister, and homeless. Her mother is trying to hold the family together after her
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published June 2018)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  502 ratings  ·  150 reviews

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Stephanie Fitzgerald
Sep 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Middle-grade readers and teachers
Great middle-grade read about the plight of a homeless family trying to survive in the Bronx. Cora, her mom, and disabled younger sister Adare manage to stick together through transitions to homeless shelters and housing projects, often facing unexpected dangers.
This reminded me of the book “Stay”, another middle-grade read about homelessness. “Sleeping In My Jeans”, a Y.A. book, also focuses on this subject. I think books like these are great for classrooms, and could lead to some really in-dep
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading @melissasarno's debut, JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS. It was such a sweet middle-grade contemporary, filled with a luscious sense of place and a narrator whose wistful, compelling voice will stay with me for a while. I particularly love the details in this book—of the trees that Cora catalogs, the passage of the seasons in Brooklyn, the crows that follow Cora and her sister across the city as they move from place to place. In a lot of ways, this was a difficult book to read, deal ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
As a children's librarian, when I talk to children about books, especially realistic fiction, I am always bringing up the images of books as windows. These windows open and we see how things might be, how things are, or how things were. Based on our experiences, as we look through those windows we learn, experience, empathize, or simply identify. The book Just Under the Clouds is the perfect example.
The family in the story is going through tough times, we see this clearly as we read the story,
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Just Under the Clouds is all about belonging. Unfortunately, I felt the narrative was lost itself.

At first, the prose gets you: its windiness, its chime and ting. Lovely. And the story is designed to pull you in as well. Seventh-grader Cora, her sister Adare (who was denied oxygen at birth), and their mother are homeless following the father's death. The realities of homelessness are somewhat touched on, but not in a gritty way. And from there, it's an aimless journey toward an end that was for
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
To be honest, this was a pretty good book, but I just don't know why I had a two-month gap in between reading the book LOL.
Kristin Crouch
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Melissa Sarno for providing an ARC of Just Under the Clouds to #collabookation for review. Publication set for June 2018.
What is home? Since Cora’s father died, her mother hasn't been able to find it. So Cora, her mother, and her sister Adare hop from place to place, couch to couch, in search of home. Cora has lived this way for a while when we meet her in Just Under the Clouds. She is used to being moved from place to place, pulled from school to school, and she doesn't seem to as
Laura Gardner
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 for JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS by @MelissaSarno; thanks to the author and @kidlitexchange for a review copy of this book (#partner). All opinions are my own.
Swipe for the back!
This slim middle grade novel packs a serious punch. Cora is trying to hold it all together for her family, but she's struggling in school and she just wants security and stability. I appreciate how realistic JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS is -- don't expect a neat, perfect ending here. Cora's family will contin
Amanda Rawson Hill
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this sweet story about what home means and loving the people you're given.
While contemporary is not generally my cup of tea, there need to be more books like this. There are very few books, especially MG books, that deal with the issues of homelessness despite the fact that many, many, many children are homeless. Cora is a very real character, and her struggles and triumphs felt authentic. Her relationship with her sister, Adare, who was deprived of oxygen at birth, was at time sweet and frustrating as Cora became frustrated with her and with how people perceived her ...more
Ms. Yingling
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
E ARC from Netgalley

Cora's mother has struggled to keep a roof over Cora and her sister Adare's head ever since the death of their father six years ago. This can be a challenge in New York City, even though the mother has given up her artwork and is working in a store. Cora does fairly well in school, although has been moved around so much that she struggles to make friends. Adare had a lack of oxygen at birth and has a host of unspecified challenges, mainly characterized by not focusing on the
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC from NetGalley of this middle grade novel. This book gives readers so much to think about. Cora, her special-needs sister, and her mother are homeless after the sudden death of her father. They have to move to different shelters all the time, many of them not very safe or pleasant. Cora struggles academically, socially, and emotionally as she has to deal with bullying, moving around so often, and missing her father. All she has left to remember her fat ...more
Heather Jones
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-and-ya
This book made me happy! I got a free ARC at the NCTE convention, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with my students. Cora is a middle schooler who is trying to figure out how she fits into the world, trying to navigate the difficulties of being homeless, trying to take care of her sister, who needs special care. She's a great character, and I think middle school students will like her and hope for the best for her as much as I did.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
This book is important, and it is good. It is full of grief, and loss, of small hopes, new friendship, and whimsy. Also trees. And crows.

Sitting here, looking up at the huge sky, I want to tell her what I know: that the world is too big and you have to find your piece of it if you want to survive.

Cora is 12, and since shortly after her father died, she, her mama, and her sister Adare have been homeless. She feels like her life is upheaval-- like she doesn't have a place in the world. She's sti
Marathon County Public Library

Cora lives in Brooklyn and loves to climb trees. She was taught by the best, her father. Now with her father gone, her family is struggling and basically homeless, shuttling from one unsafe shelter to another. A middle schooler, Cora is responsible for looking after her younger sister, Adare, while her mother works. Adare is “special:" she was deprived of oxygen when she was born and communicates and sees the world differently. When they discover that their room at the current shelter was vandal

Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not many middle grade novels talk about homelessness. Still fewer take the perspective of a child experiencing homelessness. Here, Cora and her family shuffle from one questionable shelter to another, or between friends' couches. She watches her sister, Adare, and she waits for her mother. There's no long-term stability--only a daily life of right-now. Right now, her mother is working. Right now, Adare wants to take off her shoes and run. Right now, they have a teapot and windowsill treasures. T ...more
Jennifer Chen
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I’m friends with the author.

It’s gorgeously written. Sweet. I loved their family unit together. I loved the sisterly bond between Cora and Adare. I am also amazed at the level of detail captured — not only in the trees, but also about living as a homeless family in NYC. I haven’t ever read that before in children’s literature, and I think it’s a much deserved perspective. It also made me miss Brooklyn.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not my usual read but I know the author so I was definitely going to read it. Clouds is beautifully written and a wonderful slice of life about a widow and her two daughters just trying to get by in the world. Full of love and hope, this novel should be read by the young people of today. It’s honest and full of feeling and grit and humour, sadness, friendship and real life. A wonderful debut novel by a wonderful author.
Lisa Trank
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book broke and healed my heart. The real life issue of homeless families, often for the same reason as what happens to Cora and her family, is handled with so much honesty, tenderness, and beautiful writing. Cora is a true hero, as is her sister Adare who sees the world in a different way. The book also speaks to how invisible homeless women and children can be - in schools, at work, with family. I pulled for their family from the moment the book started.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: j, middle-grade
Where can a 12 year old girl who loves climbing trees and lives in a shelter in Brooklyn NY find home? A sweet story of belonging. 3 plus
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Listened to this on audio, but now I can't really remember much about it.
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not what I was expecting.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Sweet, but not for the advanced young reader. I was underwhelmed and bored for most of this story.
Hannah Heath
Heartfelt, touching story with beautiful writing. I enjoyed every second!
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book a ton! It was a great choice for me and taught me an amazing lesson.
Isabella Peterson
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-books
This book was fine. I wouldn't say awesome because the beginning was very confusing. But the rest of the book was very good. I rate this book 4 stars. I would recommend this book to readers who like plants and like hearing about how people find a place in the world.
Laura Hill
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for an early review copy of Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno, which will publish June 5, 2018. All thoughts are my own.

#young readers (ages 8-12)
Writing: 4.5 Characters: 5 Plot: 4.5

This is one of those books that opens your eyes to a completely fresh perspective. Cora is a 12-year-old girl who is technically homeless. Along with her mother and sister, she moves from placement to placement in South Brooklyn. Some placements are better than others, and
Paul Randall Adams
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review originally posted at

This weekend, I had the immense pleasure of reading a soon-to-be-released book. One of my favorite things about book blogging is getting to read amazing books before they come out, and Sarno’s Just Under the Clouds is exactly that.

Always think in threes and you’ll never fall, Cora’s father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn.

But now Cora is a m
Diane Magras
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerhouse of a novel, the story of a girl struggling to keep a positive outlook on life despite pretty much everything crumbling in on her. Cora's father is gone, died from a heart attack. Her sister is "special" (a word that makes Cora cringe) and requires constant attention and care. And her mother is unable to find a job that will provide an income that will keep them. So Cora and her family are homeless. Sarno paints a detailed picture of what this life is like--the shelter with t ...more
Such a lovely, lovely book. Beautifully written, tender, and wise. Loved the characters and the vivid Brooklyn setting. Can't wait for this one to be out in the world so more readers can meet Cora and Adare!
Alicia Croft
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I did not enjoy the narrator of this. I felt she really babied the story - which was pretty heavy with despair for a middle grade story. I think this is the first middle grade contemporary/realistic fiction ive ever read? So this was something different - I have read a bit of middle grade fantasy before though.


I spent most of the book annoyed with the mother justifying poor parental decisions by saying "this is our life". I didnt enjoy the end where Cora decides she now somehow likes th
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My debut novel, JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS, will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers in Summer 2018.

Learn more about me on my website.

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