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Just South of Home

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  221 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Cousins Sarah and Janie unearth a tragic event in their small Southern towns history in this witty middle grade debut novel thats perfect for fans of Stella by Starlight, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, and As Brave as You.

Twelve-year old Sarah is finally in charge. At last, she can spend her summer months reading her favorite science books and bossing around her younger
Published May 7th 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Karen Strong Middle-grade is my first love as a writer. I love that characters are just trying to figure out who they are separate from their families. These kids…moreMiddle-grade is my first love as a writer. I love that characters are just trying to figure out who they are separate from their families. These kids are striving to see what they want to believe and how they want to be seen in their new, widening world. For Sarah in JUST SOUTH OF HOME, she is starting that journey.(less)

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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  221 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Rachel Reads Ravenously
I think this book is everything a middle grade novel should be. A story filled with family, friendship, compassion and history. I love that the main character was a girl who loved science. I also think this book presented what is a tough subject in a gentle but truthful manner. Only criticism (and why 4 not 5 stars) is some editing issues, at one point a character was addressed by the wrong name and it was confusing. Also the same information was presented as new information a couple times.
Stephanie Fitzgerald
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Middle-grade readers
I must agree with one of my favorite Goodreads reviewers about this one. It would have been a much better read if the ghosts had been left out. I enjoyed the coming-of-age parts, the portrayal of strong family bonds, and the historical aspects. Had the haints not been included, I probably would have given this a four or maybe five-star rating.

Memorable Quotes:
(Pg.41)-Warrenville was somewhere I belonged. I liked the way everyone knew my name and family. You always felt like you were home .
Remy Lai
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a great book!

Sarah's cousin Janie has come over to stay. They stumble into an old church and cemetery, and Janie "steals" a cameo, causing a haint to follow them. What follows is a perfect balance of realism and the supernatural.

What I love most is the relationship between Sarah and Janie. While the cousins do not get along at first, they start to discover they have more in common than they thought. I also love the complex relationship between Sarah's mom and grandma.
Full of heart and hope, this is a must read for anyone who loves stories about family. I also loved the theme of remembering the past because it shapes our future.
Joshua Levy
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed JUST SOUTH OF HOME--the characters at the heart of the story are so lovable and so compelling. And as someone who really enjoyed spooky stories as a kid, JUST SOUTH OF HOME hits all the right notes. Kid'll love it! (Grown-ups too.)
Shaye Miller
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Just South of Home is a very suspenseful middle grade novel that explores the racist history of the South. Astronomy-loving Sarah Greene, her brother Ellis, and Ellis best friend Jasper all live in Werrenville, Georgia. When they suddenly receive news that their difficult cousin, Janie, will be coming down from Chicago to stay with them (while her mother auditions for a film in Hollywood), they arent excited in the least. Janie hates their town and wants nothing to do with her cousins. ...more
Kristin Crouch
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just South of Home is the best of a child's summer: family, friends, mystery, and adventure!
Responsible Sarah is finally old enough to be in charge of her little brother, Ellis, for the summer. This means that instead of toiling away under the hot sun following her emotionally distant grandmother's orders, she can read all the books she dreams of! What Sarah didn't plan on was her cousin, Janie, being included in these plans. Janie dislikes Sarah's country life, and misses both her mom and the
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids, 2019
Beautifully written and perfectly paced, JUST SOUTH OF HOME will keep you turning the pages as you fall in love with the characters. These characters! Sarah, the main character, is a terrific kid. Janie, her cousin is strugglingbut at the same time you feel for her and are rooting for her. But Sarahs little brother is my favoritehes adorable! And their grandmother is unforgettable, I can absolutely hear her voice in my head. I dont want to give away the plot but I will just say GHOST story, a ...more
Laura Gardner
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5 for JUST SOUTH OF HOME, a debut novel by @karenmusings (#KarenStrong); thanks to @simonkids and YSBRMA blog for sharing this; will share with #kidlitexchange next!

"...we can't change the past, but we need to remember it. We need to acknowledge it and not hide it." This debut middle grade novel about coming to terms our racist past is a must-buy for every elementary and middle school library! I sped through this book in one day and simply loved it.

Sarah, a Black pre-teen in rural
Ms. Yingling
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sarah is thrilled that she and her brother Ellis are going to be allowed to stay home by themselves over the summer, rather than spend time with their uptight and controlling grandmother, Mrs. Greene. Sarah loves space, and has a research project planned, while the younger Ellis plans on constructing model cars. When their cousin Janie's mother wants to go to Hollywood and leave Janie with Sarah's family, Sarah struggles to make the best of the situation,
Kristin Thorsness
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Karen Strongs middle grade debut opens with red velvet cake, and it just gets better from there. JUST SOUTH OF HOME is an absolute delight. I fell in love with the spunky cast of characters right away and found myself both laughing and crying as I moved through the story with Sarah, Janie, Ellis, Jasper, and yes, even Mrs. Green. Without giving any spoilers, Ill say the expertly woven plot has something for everyone: fractured friendships, tense family relationships, late night adventure, ...more
Shauna Holyoak
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love everything about this book, especially the spunky, true-to-life characters. This perfectly paced ghost story will draw in young readers as they learn about a town's dark history and the ability of resourceful and empowered kids to effect change. The strong and authentic voice is reminiscent of Jason Reynold's BRAVE AS YOU and Kate DiCamillo's BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE. Make room on your shelves, because this one is a keeper!
Jen Vaughn
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A YA book that deftly handles a lot of challenges facing kids today (and many yesterdays) like racism, family responsibilities, small towns vs large cities. Great for kids and adults.
Jenna (Falling Letters)
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, middle-grade, 2019
Review originally published 6 May 2019 at Falling Letters. I received a free copy from the publisher.

The last middle grade title I reviewed features Black kids in a small town and a speculative fiction plot; I called it a fun summer read (review of The Last Last-Day-of-Summer ). Those descriptors also apply to Just South of Home, but these two books are quite different from each. Sarahs meant to supervise her younger brother and big city cousin over the summer when they find themselves tangled
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Its summer in Georgia, and Sarahs mother has agreed to let Sarah and her little brother stay home alone, rather than suffer the tortures of their strict, chore-crazy grandmother, aka Mrs. Greene. All seems well, till their uppity city cousin arrives. Janie has a nose for trouble, and before long shes drawn Sarah into scary, forbidden territory: old Creek Church, the scene of past racial atrocities. They unsettle restless haints, which pursue them all the way home. Sarah believes in science, not ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about JUST SOUTH OF HOMEmost of all how it embraces the importance of family, friends, and having a community. At the start of the story, Sarah is trying to understand the distance her best friend has placed between them at the same time she (not so excitedly) welcomes her cousin for the summer. The exploration of these friendships (and Sarahs relationship with her wonderful, hilarious, loveable brother Ellis) alongside their discovery of the ghosts of Warrenville, weave ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg-books
Do you like a bit of creepiness in your reading? Then you should pick up JUST SOUTH OF HOME by Karen Strong. I loved the characters & the setting. The adventure & suspense had me reading non-stop. Excited to share with students who are always looking for a fright!
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite 2018 reads was THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson. If you, too, were a fan of the way he wove together the past and present, the heavy and the light-hearted, into a fascinating and compelling historical mysteryboy, have I got the book for you!

I first "met" Karen Strong when we both entered #dvpit in spring 2016. I was immediately drawn in by the pitch for her spooky middle grade mystery, and I've been impatient to get my hands on JUST SOUTH OF HOME ever since it sold! I
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is such a well written, wonderful book. I love the themes of family, friendship, redemption, healing, and second chances. Middle grade readers will love to shiver at the creepy 'haints' that haunt this story but also really relate to the trials and tribulations of navigating family and friendships. More importantly, the story doesn't shy away from the racist history of the Klu Klux Klan and the way in which whole communities were terrorized. And yet the story is still subtle and ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interest Level: 3-6

Do you believe in ghost? Sarah doesn't... or she didn't until that summer. Sarah was excited about her summer plans - she was going to get to stay home, babysit her little brother, and read all of the astronomy books that she wants to. This may not sound glamorous but considering that their previous summers have been spent at their overly-strict grandmother's house getting worked to the bone. Little did Sarah know that everything was about to change. Sarah's aunt gets an offer
Nicole (Reading Books With Coffee)
I really liked Just South Of Home!  It's cute and Sarah and Janie have a lot of adventures.  I'm glad I read it!

Janie and Sarah were really interesting characters.  I wasn't sure about Janie at first, but I would honestly probably act the same way if I were her.  I really liked Sarah and how much she loved science.  She and Janie are very different and they have their differences but they work it out and things definitely get better between them.  

I really liked the connection to the history of
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book has racked up at least 3 stars from the professional reviewers and glowing ratings from Goodreads. I liked this one and appreciate its many strengths but I felt there were a few elements that kept it from living up to quite that many stars. This is a debut novel and an exceptionally strong one but there are a few things that weren't as polished as I felt they should be, some of them minor like a repeating description that began to irritate, and some of them larger.

There are many
Kate Waggoner
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-read
@KidLitExchange #partner

Thank you to @simonkids and #karenstrong for sharing an advance copy of Just South of Home with the #kidlitexchange network. This book was released in May 2019. All opinions are my own.

Sarah's cousin, Janie, is coming to stay with her family for the summer. Janie has a knack for getting into trouble and Sarah knows she'll have her work cut out for her trying to keep Janie out of trouble while also watching her younger brother, Ellis. Janie ends up convincing Sarah to
Priscilla Kraut
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
It was a good book for middle school students. It has ghost and a mystery to keep them entertained but it also shows them how if you over come your hate that you can heal.

The story centers around Sarah, Ellis, Janie, Jasper and it takes place in the town of Werrenville which is outside of Atlanta. Sarah loves science and is looking forward to September when she can meet her idol and ask him questions. Ellis is Sarahs brother who like to build model cars and loves to pray. Janie is the cousin
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss, and the author for giving me an opportunity to read an eARC of this book (I tried many ways to get my hands on it, and I so appreciate Karen's help!)

It's summer, and Sarah is finally old enough to be in charge of herself and her younger brother, Ellis, rather than spending it under the watchful eye of her grandma, Mrs. Greene. Her plans are thwarted when her cousin, Janie, unexpectedly ends up staying with her family. Janie isn't prepared to quietly sit around
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
Just South of Home by Karen Strong, 310 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2019. $18.

Content: PG (ghosts and spirits)



Sarah, 12, has her summer plans upset when her Aunt Gina gets a small part in a movie and will spend most of the summer in Paris. It was bad enough that Sarah put up with her cousin Jane for two weeks, but now even longer? Jane has a talent for getting in trouble shoplifting, encouraging Sarahs little brother Ellis to do dangerous
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to be spooky, summer read full of mystery and suspense, then I most definitely recommend you pick-up JUST SOUTH OF HOME by Karen Strong. Sarah thought this was going to be the summer shes always wantedreading and watching programs about astronomy (with the occasional interruption from her younger brother Ellis)but its a short-lived plan when her cousin Janie from Chicago arrives for the summer. Janie, who wasnt planning on staying and is pretty vocal about it, isnt easy to please and ...more
Michelle Kidwell
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing





PUB DATE 07 MAY 2019

I am reviewing a copy of Just South Of Home through Simon and Shuster Childrens Publishing and Netgalley:

Sarah is twelve years old and is finally in charge. She can spend her Summer Reading her favorite science books and bossing her younger brother Ellis home. She does not have to worry about being worked to the bone by her strict
Kristin Lambert
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this with my two daughters at bedtime over the course of a couple of weeks, and we all three loved it! It taught a lot about history, friendship and family without seeming at all didactic. The voices of all the characters were so distinct, and we especially loved the humor of always-hungry little brother Ellis, and the friendship that developed between the two cousins Sarah and Janie. The reading level was perfect for my 9-year-old (AR level 6.0), so she and I took turns reading it, with ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery-2020

Twelve-year-old Sarah Greene Is all about moon, stars and the planets. And aspires to be an acrobiologist. Cousin Janie from Chicago is all about movie stars and mansions. Janie is 11 and is a thief!

She is staying with her family in their small, country town of Warrenville, Georgia, for the summer and continuously uses her five-finger discount whenever she wants.

Janie is also a meddler and one day disturbs the towns haints, restless spirits with unresolved business on this spiritual plane, by
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Born and raised in the rural South, Karen spent most of her childhood wandering the woods, meadows, and gardens of her grandmothers land. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she is an advocate of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). An avid lover of strong coffee, yellow flowers, and night skies, Karen currently lives in Atlanta, GA. ...more

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