Drita, My Homegirl

Drita, My Homegirl

4.4 20
by Jenny Lombard

View All Available Formats & Editions

A poignant story about the difficulties of leaving everything behind and the friendships that help you get through it.

Fleeing war-torn Kosovo, ten-year-old Drita and her family move to America with the dream of living a typical American life. But with this hope comes the struggle to adapt and fit in. How can Drita find her place at school and in her new

See more details below

  • Checkmark Kids' Club Eligible  Shop Now


A poignant story about the difficulties of leaving everything behind and the friendships that help you get through it.

Fleeing war-torn Kosovo, ten-year-old Drita and her family move to America with the dream of living a typical American life. But with this hope comes the struggle to adapt and fit in. How can Drita find her place at school and in her new neighborhood when she doesn't speak any English? Meanwhile, Maxie and her group of fourth-grade friends are popular in their class, and make an effort to ignore Drita. So when their teacher puts Maxie and Drita together for a class project, things get off to a rocky start. But sometimes, when you least expect it, friendship can bloom and overcome even a vast cultural divide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Touching….This first novel is imbued with the language and customs of Kosova as well as the efforts of a family attempting to regain balance. Read it aloud to groups and let the conversations begin."—School Library Journal, starred review
Publishers Weekly
Lombard's debut novel unfolds through the first-person narratives of two fourth-grade classmates with very different backgrounds. Drita has just arrived in New York City from a devastated Kosovo and is worried about her depressed mother, who spends days alone in her room. She misses her best friend from home and longs to make a new friend. But Drita knows little English, and the girls at school make no effort to get to know her-including outspoken, impulsive Maxie, an African-American whose brassy demeanor cloaks a deep sadness. Maxie keeps secret the fact that her mother died three years earlier in a car accident, a loss from which she is still reeling. In a poignant encounter, Maxie's wise grandmother, acknowledging that her granddaughter's acting-out is related to her grief, advises the girl, "You got to start to let her go" and to "Let someone in." Maxie reaches out to Drita, and the two grow closer as Maxie researches Kosovo for her school project. Maxie's slang-riddled voice comes across credibly, yet passages representing Drita's thoughts sometimes seem stiff or awkward (e.g., "When Ramazan [a holy time for Albanians] is over, this is the best time for me because I always get too many presents"; "Her breath is hard like someone who is running too much"). Yet the pair's discovery of their common ground makes for a warm, often moving story. Readers will learn as much about Kosovo as about the remedy to be found in friendship. Ages 8-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Drita, an Albanian Muslim, comes from war-torn Kosovo to a classroom in New York City. It is hard to make friends when you dress different and cannot make yourself understood. Maxie, the leader of the fourth grade homeys, walks with an air of bravado and an attitude that more often than not gets her in trouble. Friendship between the two seems almost impossible. When a teacher gives Maxie an assignment to learn more about Kosovo, the tender seeds of friendship are sown. In alternating chapters, each girl reveals her deepest feelings and shows the reader just how similar they actually are. Each has experienced loss: Drita her homeland, Maxie her mother, and each has a strong grandmother to guide her. Drita's mother is suffering from depression and it is Maxie's grandmother, a nurse, who holds out a hand of hope and cements a bond between the two families. As Maxie reads her essay to the class it becomes clear to everyone the pain and loneliness that Drita has suffered and how hard she has worked to adjust to a new country. For her debut novel, Lombard has created two strong and distinct characters, sensitively explores the effects of war on one family, and illuminates the power of friendship to overcome obstacles. 2006, Putnam/Penguin, Ages 9 to 12.
—Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-In alternating chapters, two fourth graders tell about the development of their unlikely friendship. Drita is a refugee from Kosova who, along with her family, is finally joining her father in New York City. In a cramped apartment and without connections or language skills, her mother sinks into a serious depression, while the girl struggles to find her place in school. Maxie, a precocious African-American child who lives with her supportive grandmother and her widowed father, struggles, too; she's in constant trouble in school for her comedic efforts since her mother died. When she sees a news report on Kosova, she decides to do a project on Albanian refugees, focusing on Drita. The girls find common ground, and when Maxie's grandmother, a retired nurse, sweeps in to rescue Drita's mother, the families forge a bond as well. Maxie's attempts to help Drita understand American ways are touching, and Drita's understanding of her friend's loss is a testament to the emotional intelligence of children. Drita's story resonates with the bravery of an individual determined to become part of her new country while retaining the love of her homeland. Maxie has the cocky voice of a girl who is trying too hard to disguise her pain. More a tale of the power of love than of refugees, this first novel is imbued with the language and customs of Kosova as well as the efforts of a family attempting to regain balance. Read it aloud to groups and let the conversations begin.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two girls from different worlds and cultures come together in this deft representation of immigration and multicultural friendship. Escaping the horror of war, persecution and destruction of their Albanian life, Drita and her family emigrate from Kosovo to New York City. Thrown into the school environment of rival groups and peer discrimination, Drita's lack of English, coupled with her refugee status, immediately places her in a vulnerable position. Simultaneously, Maxie, a typical urban African-American girl, struggles to stay out of trouble despite peer influences and is assigned the task of learning about the new girl as part of her social-studies project. Brought together in this way, the two girls overcome barriers of language and custom to resolve issues they both have in common. Alternating chapters in the voice of each girl reveal more similarities than differences. Both are missing mothers; Maxie is still adjusting to the accidental death of hers, while Drita is coping with her mother's debilitating depression since leaving their war-torn country. Loving and level-headed grandmothers act as surrogates. Lombard does a fine job of portraying characters displaying growth through some serious circumstances while maintaining their childlike qualities. (Fiction. 9-12)

Read More

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.68(h) x 0.37(d)
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

For three days, before I am coming to this country, I can’t eat. My mother is afraid I’m sick, and the Americans will turn us away when we get to New York City, but my grandmother said don’t worry: now that my father has his American job, no one can turn us away. She said it’s just the excitement taking away my appetite. For once my gjyshe is wrong about something: It’s not excitement that keeps me from eating my dinner, it’s worry. I keep wondering: What if I don’t know my own baba when I see him at the airport? It’s been almost one year since we are together with my father. The more I think about it, the more worried I get.

Finally, on the day we are leaving for New York, I get so tired of worrying, I eat a big bowl of delicious trahana my grandmother makes for me. While I eat, I think to myself: this is the last food I will taste in my country.

Our plane lands in New York in the middle of the night. At the airport, I can feel how hot New York is compared to the Balkans. Even the air feels different on my skin, sticky and wet. I close my eyes for a minute and take a breath. I think to myself, Now I am breathing American air.

Even though it’s the middle of the night, this place is crowded with people. Then I see him: his face is all furry with a red beard he is growing, and he looks thinner, but he is still wearing his Albanian clothes. Now I know it was silly to worry so much. Of course I know my own father.

“Mirë se erdhët,” my father shouts, welcoming us, and sweeps my mother and my baby brother up into his arms. My mother is crying and we are kissing him so much. My mother cried every day that we were in Kosova because we had to be separated from Baba for so long. For one year my father was alone in America, getting money for us to come here. Maybe now that we are together in New York City, she will stop her crying.My father kisses me on top of my head, and we follow him through the airport to the garage where he parked his taxicab. When we learned that my father’s first American job was as a car driver, we were all sad that a man who had trained as an electrical engineer had to take a job that was s’ësh të në dinjitetin e tij—not good enough for him. But when I saw my father’s taxicab, I thought it was lucky my father’s first American job was as a driver. Now we would have a pretty yellow cab to take us to our new home, just like in a movie.

I look over at my grandmother. Gjyshe hasn’t said a word since we got off the plane, except to nod hello to her son. Now she looks at me and smiles a smile so big that it covers her whole face.

“America the beautiful!” she says in English.

Sometimes from the way she smiles and tells jokes, my gjyshe seems more like a girl eight years old than an old lady almost seventy.

My father opens the trunk and puts our bags inside while the rest of us pile into the car.

My grandmother, brother and I are in the backseat and my mother is in front.

“Zonjë!” says my father and makes a little bow. Inside, the car smells sweet, like perfume. Gjyshe and I watch silently as my father drives the car down the ramps and tunnels of the airport. Soon we are on the streets, with the lights of America everywhere around us.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >