The third Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee I chose to read was Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan. William and Elinor's father left for "a while". Their mom decides to cope by adopting four dogs and a cat. Their new "family" members help them see how important they are to each other.
This story would be a good fit for many skills off the CAFE menu. The fact that it contains some illustrations makes is work for the skill cross checking. It would also work for students working on summarizing, identifying literary elements, and voracious reading.