Take Me with You

Take Me with You

4.0 2
by Carolyn Marsden
Hopes of adoption test the friendship of two girls — one biracial — in a lyrical novel touching on themes of identity and the meaning of home.

Pina and Susanna. Susanna and Pina. For as long as they’ve lived at the Istituto di Gesù Bambino — a home for babies abandoned after the War — they have been best friends. As children


Hopes of adoption test the friendship of two girls — one biracial — in a lyrical novel touching on themes of identity and the meaning of home.

Pina and Susanna. Susanna and Pina. For as long as they’ve lived at the Istituto di Gesù Bambino — a home for babies abandoned after the War — they have been best friends. As children, they played rag dolls under the watchful eyes of the nuns and hide-and-seek among the lemon trees on the rooftop terrazzo overlooking Naples. But now strangers are coming to the chiesa, couples hoping to adopt children. Susanna thinks Pina — pale, pretty Pina with her gleaming yellow braid — will be adopted at once. Susanna, on the other hand, is a mulatta. Her father was an American soldier, a nero. No Italian has hair or skin like hers. But when a surprise visitor comes to the istituto just to see Susanna, will the friends be separated after all? Or will a miracle make both of their dreams come true?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Marsden (The Gold-Threaded Dress) again deftly weaves a multicultural thread into her fiction. A decade after the end of WWII, best friends Susanna and Pina are being raised by nuns in a Naples home for girls who were abandoned as babies. Convinced that their parents must be dead since they haven't come for them, the girls long to be adopted, but prospective parents haven't selected either of them. Golden-haired Pina thinks her mischievous behavior is the problem, while Susanna believes her dark skin is to blame. Though each discovers she has a birth parent alive, the author realistically steers clear of a pat, feel-good resolution. After a letter arrives from her father, an American sailor who's on a tour of duty, Susanna plaintively wonders, “Why would a father not drop everything to hurry to his daughter?” Pina holds out hope when she learns that her mother lives nearby yet can't care for her and has withheld permission for her daughter to be adopted (“I belong to someone. Someday my mother will come”). It's a poignant novel, enriched by expressive writing and credible characters. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
Two best friends, both abandoned by their parents during the war, grew up together in the Instituto, a religious home for children after the war. Susanna, the dark-skinned daughter of an American soldier and Pina, blond and beautiful, spend years dreaming about who might eventually come for them. When prospective parents begin showing up at the Instituto on Sundays, both girls dare to scheme about possible adoptions and becoming part of a real family. Plans change, however, when a tall, dark-skinned American sailor shows up claiming to be Susanna's father and a whispered conversation behind closed doors reveals that Pina does indeed have a mother who is alive. The girls know that their inseparable days may be numbered. A beautifully written story about abandonment, friendship, and searching for a home, this novel reveals a glimpse inside the lives of these young girls during the post war era in Italy. Both Susanna and Pina have individual chapters throughout, allowing the reader to experience each story. The other girls mentioned in the book, however, have little or no real purpose in the drama. The story itself pulls in the historical and religious elements of the time that, while appreciated by an older reader, will add confusing elements to the target audience of readers. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta
VOYA - Cynthia Grady
With the notable grace that has become the mark of a Marsden book, readers learn of Pina and Susanna, best friends at the Instituto di Gesu Bambino, a home for abandoned babies in post-war Italy, run by an order of Catholic nuns. It opens with the girls singing at the Latin Mass, hoping to be adopted by a loving family, but mystery surrounds the girls' parentage. A woman who warms to Pina is given a brief shake of the head by one of the nuns, signifying that Pina is not available for adoption. Susanna, a mulatta, knows her father must have been an American Nero soldier (slaves who fought in the Civil War in place of their owners, thus earning their freedom), but she does not understand why he has not come for her. The friendship between the girls is realistically portrayed to show the sensitivity and naivete of ten- and eleven-year-olds. By turns romantic and pragmatic, Susanna and Pina hope to be adopted into the same family and live forever as sisters yet venture to find and reunite with their true parents. Marsden's choice of detail, imagery, and sprinkling of Italian words enrich the text and give authenticity to the story. A glossary is appended to clear up any potential confusion. Reviewer: Cynthia Grady
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In this post-World War II novel set in Italy, Susanna and Pina, both 11, have lived at a Catholic orphanage since they were infants. Although the girls consider themselves sorelle (sisters), they still long to be part of a family. Susanna, a mixed-race girl, is sure that high-spirited Pina will be adopted quickly because of her golden beauty, and she is keenly aware that she is unlikely to be chosen. Both girls are shocked to discover that each of them has a living parent. Susanna receives a letter from a black American sailor who suspects he's her father. There are hints that her mother was a prostitute. After a few awkward meetings, she begins to warm up to this earnest man who is determined to bring her up in the U.S. Pina discovers that her mother lives nearby and although she has never visited, she has not relinquished her parental rights. Pina makes a couple of desperate visits to her, but is repeatedly rebuffed. Her mother explains, "I was too young…only sixteen," and she is afraid to reveal her daughter's existence to her husband. After a series of heartrending encounters, she finally frees the girl for adoption. Marsden does an excellent job of creating an unsentimental picture of institutional life where affection from adults is rare, and luxuries even rarer. She unflinchingly presents painful experiences that some adoptees face, such as abandonment, racism, and rejection. Although the ending is ambiguous, it hints that both girls will join loving families. This compelling story will likely appeal to a broad audience.—Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Braintree, MA
Kirkus Reviews
An orphanage for abandoned girls in Naples after World War II is the setting for this tale of two girls, now about 11, who have been there since they were babies. Susanna's father was an American nero, a black man; Pina-short for Giuseppina-has golden curls and rosy skin and a mother who has left her at the istituto but will not let her be adopted. Every Sunday after Mass couples visit the istituto to look over prospective daughters, and each week Susanna and Pina are left behind. The longing for parental affection, while the obvious theme, is still curiously at a remove from readers, even as Susanna tries to find a response to the tall, gentle black American sailor who is her father, and Pina tries to track down her mother in the slums of the city. There's too much telling and not enough showing, despite alternating chapters that follow each girl in the third person, and a lot of cliche-a severe old nun and a kind postulant, for example. Despite the intriguing concept, this effort falls flat. (Italian glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.64(w) x 7.26(h) x 0.70(d)
640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Carolyn Marsden is the acclaimed author of many novels for young readers. She has a master of fine arts in writing for children from Vermont College and lives in La Jolla, California.

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Take Me with You 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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