Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Becoming Naomi Leon, by Pam Munoz Ryan

Naomi lives in a trailer park with her mildly-handicapped brother and her great grandmother taking care of them. But things change when he long-absent mother reappears and wants to take Naomi away. Rather than be forced to leave her belovewd brother and Gram, they flee south to Mexico and search for her father. Along the way, Naomi discovers Mexico and a little bit of herself.

This is an absolutely charming book. I've been reading so many teen angst books that I've forgotten that children's books don't have to be about falling in love for the first time. And Ryan takes us to territory (not only in a physical sense of the state of Oaxaca, but in the emotional sense) that YA literature rarely goes. This is a deep exploration of the heart and family. It is also a gentle story with a good sense of wit (the chapter titles alone are wonderful), and a with good payoff in the end. Highly recommended.

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