November 12, 2010

Reviews - Two Great Realistic Fiction Books for Children

Heidi is on a quest to discover who she is and where she comes from. Her mentally disabled mother, who calls herself "So B. It," is unable to give Heidi the answers she craves so desperately. Heidi's neighbor Bernadette selflessly takes care of Heidi and her mother. Bernadette describes Heidi's mother's brain as a broken machine: "All the basic parts are there...but inside there are lots of mysterious little pieces busted or bent or missing altogether" (p. 5). Heidi feels like she is missing a lot of pieces in her life too - she needs to know about her family's past. Heidi's mom only has 23 words that she can use to express herself - otherwise she uses nonverbal communication to express her feelings. She cries, laughs, or holds Heidi's hand, and this is enough for Heidi to know that her mom loves her. They mystery of what the word "soof" means drives Heidi to go on a cross-country trip to discover her mother's past and what led them to Reno, where they live now.Will Heidi find the answers she needs? 

So B. It is a beautiful story of family and love. It teaches us that families don't always look the same and that there are many different ways to show someone you love them. Heidi considers Bernadette, her neighbor, a part of her family even though they are not actually related. Heidi's mother has her own way of showing love because she does not have the words to express it. This is a charming story and an interesting read. 

The audiobook narrator did a wonderful job of portraying youth and innocence along with her growing maturity. The unabridged audiobook consisted of 4 CDs which I was able to listen to in just a few of my commutes to and from work. The track length allowed for easy "bookmarking" as well. I enjoyed this audiobook, and I would be interested in reading the print version in the future as well.

Half-Mexican Naomi and her younger disabled brother, Owen, live with their loving great-grandmother in the trailer park that they call home. When Naomi is 11, her mother returns, and they barely recognize her. However, her mother (who now wants to be called by a new name - "Skyla") expects to pick up where they left off with no hard feelings. At first, Naomi is overjoyed with the attention and gifts from her mother, but soon she starts to notice the way Owen is left out. And when her mother misses a parent-teacher conference and then becomes angry at Owen's doctor visit, Naomi starts to realize her mother's true nature. When Skyla threatens to take Naomi back (but not Owen), Naomi's great-grandmother packs up the children and takes them to Mexico in search of their long-lost father in the hope that he can help settle the custody issues. What will happen to Naomi if she has to go live with her mother? What if her father decides that he wants her now after all these years?
Becoming Naomi Leon is a wonderful story of a young girl who searches for her identity. This book gives insight into the life of a Mexican-American girl who learns more about her Mexican heritage. I think Naomi's friend Blanca put it best when she said, "Ask lots of questions and you'll get lots of answers. You deserve to know about your own life. Right?" (p. 55) Children of all backgrounds can enjoy learning about people who are different than them, too. The story includes many rich details about Oaxaca, Mexico and the language, culture, and traditions of Mexico's people. Also, families today do not always reflect the traditional idea of a family. Many children are being raised by grandparents, great grandparents, or other relatives. They may identify with Naomi as her family goes through a bitter custody battle.

Through Naomi's search for her father and her Mexican-American identity, she finds her voice. People were always asking Naomi to speak up, and she finds her voice in a courageous way. Read this book for an inspiring story of a girl finding her place in the world. 

I read both of these books for my Materials for Youth class. Last week we read and discussed realistic fiction for children and this week we are focusing on realistic fiction for young adults. 

I randomly picked these two books from a list of suggested titles, but I think they actually share a lot of similarities. Both tell the story of a young girl who goes on a journey in order to learn about her family's past. Both girls have a quirky habit of making lists in a notebook of things that they know about their parents. Both girls grow in confidence and learn to accept who they are and where they came from. These are two books that you should definitely check out!


Tina's Blog said...

So B It was a huge favorite last year with my fifth grade.

Pandorka said...

I've been eying So B. It for a while. It's good to finally know what it's about! I hadn't done thorough research.

... and Pam Muñoz Ryan has been on my radar since I read Riding Freedom when I was a kid. She's great!

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