Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Drita, My Homegirl

Drita is ten and a refugee from Kosovo. She has endured much in her homeland but is fortunate to be able to immigrate to America. Immigrating to New York City is not an easy task, however. First, Drita must move into a very small apartment and learn a new language, enroll in a school of many different customs and cultures….not to mention try not to upset her mother who is clearly dealing some sort of emotional breakdown as a result of life as a refuge.

Maxie is a popular, fast talking, smart and funny African American girl who has a challenging past of her own. Despite the fact that she’s on track for becoming a comedienne, she misses her mother who died in a car accident. Grandma seems to become the boss of her life and worse, Maxie’s Dad is dating a woman he wants his daughter to meet...not Maxie’s idea of what life should be.

In either an act of necessity or brilliance, Miss Salvato, the girls' fourth grade teacher, assigns Maxie the story of Drita’s journey to America as a Social Studies project. How on earth can Maxie study a girl who doesn’t even speak English?! “It will be a wonderful challenge for you” says Miss Salvato (21).

Maxie and Drita alternately tell their stories throughout the book to help readers understand how the girls struggle to build common ground. By the end of the story we are proud and delighted to have seen the birth of their friendship. The voice of each girl is distinct and believable. Readers come to like both girls and are proud of them as they present a shared final chapter in the form of a social studies project. This book would be especially good for elementary age girls learning about classmates who have immigrated from another country. It would also make an excellent read aloud book.

Jenny Lombard is a New York City public school teacher that just couldn’t allow the amazing stories of her students go without telling in the form of a book. Drita, My Homegirl is her first novel. Hopefully, it won’t be her last. This book has been nominated as a 2012 Virginia Readers Choice for elementary school. It is on the readers choice lists of twenty other states. Wow. I'd say it's worth a read!

Author Jenny Lombard’s website gives background for herself, her students and how this book came into existence:

Lombard, J. Drita, My Homegirl. New York: Puffin Books. 2006. Print.

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