A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book could be used to open up all kinds of discussion topics, such as who should have the say in who gets custody of young children. Families may also want to learn more about Oaxaca and its traditions, including the Night of the Radishes. The book is filled Spanish words and with wonderful bonus material, including an interview with the author and tips for becoming an artist.
Naomi learns to be brave, speak up and "carve what your imagination dictates so that what is inside can become what is meant to be."
Positive Role Models
Naomi has to deal with a scary, abusive mother, but there are many other positive adult role models in her life, including her great-grandmother, neighbors and teachers. Naomi herself is loving with her family, and is ultimately able to speak up to save herself.
Violence & Scariness
Naomi's mother slaps her hard, and threatens to hurt her and her grandmother.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Naomi's mother is an alcoholic, and drives drunk. This behavior is certainly not glamorized; Skyla has been in rehabilitation programs and even suffered mental illness as a result of her drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book is about a custody battle: Naomi's mother is a mean, abusive alcoholic who abandons her children for years. The children are recovering from traumas: Naomi had selective mutism and even now has trouble speaking; Owen, born with birth defects that have left him a FLK (Funny Looking Kid), wears pieces of tape on his chest so that he can feel more secure. When their mother returns, she drives drunk and even slaps and threatens Naomi. Even so, the book is filled with positive role models and Naomi eventually learns to be brave enough to speak for what she wants. The message here is to "carve what your imagination dictates so that what is inside can become what is meant to be."
Is It Any Good?
Naomi, Owen, and Gram are appealing characters. Naomi worries, keeps lists of things that interest her, and hangs out in the school library with other social misfits and the kind, eccentric librarian. Owen is relentlessly optimistic and cheerful, and his rather lopsided appearance masks intelligence and a good heart. Gram works hard and believes in the power of positive thinking, and she has managed to make their meager existence seem rich and cozy.
The only character who doesn't ring true is the children's mother, Skyla, who seems to have no redeeming qualities at all. She is maliciously selfish, scheming, devious, alcoholic, abusive, and just plain mean. While this certainly enhances the reader's sympathy for already sympathetic characters, it does make Skyla a rather cardboard villain, and lessens the complexity of the situation. But the author makes up for this with the richness of the scenes in Mexico, which spring to vivid life after the pale California scenes. They seem to be shot through a warmer filter, and will make readers long for a trip to Mexico.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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