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Children's LiteraturePart The Diary of Anne Frank and part first-person novel, this book tells the story of Anita's life in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo dictatorship. The 12-year old writes not only of mysterious phone calls, secret police stakeouts, and the sudden evacuation of her cousins, but also of boys, growing up, and the desire to be normal and well liked. The compelling story takes Anita and her mother from their family compound into hiding in a closet, and finally to New York. Throughout these moves, we listen to Anita lose her voice as she learns the importance of staying quiet to survive. She wilts under the terror of Trujillo's dictatorship and only finds herself in documenting the events of her life in hiding. In this book, we witness the power of storytelling to sustain the will, as well as the ghastly realities of an oppressed country. Alvarez develops the complex changes in Anita's identity as a girl, Dominican, and writer effortlessly through Anita's candid voice. Valenzuela deserves congratulations for her preservation of Anita's accessible language in her translation; the story loses none of its momentum and intimacy. This 2002 Pura Belpré winner is an excellent novel for teaching the horror of dictatorship as well as the importance of freedom of speech. 2004 (orig. 2002), Dell Laurel-Leaf, Ages 10 to 15.
—Veronica E. Betancourt