Naomi, half Mexican and half Oklahoman, has many names; but by the end of the book she truly grows into the lioness name. A victim of child abuse by her alcoholic mother, Naomi suffered from selective mutism until her great grandmother took her and her deformed brother Owen under her wing. After seven years of proper care and medical attention, the 11-year-old girl and the 8-year-old boy are suddenly visited by their long-absent mother. As Gran might say, the good and the bad of it is that they have a mother again but she is still trouble. Naomi manages to stand up to her mother's slaps and threats this time around and to lay the groundwork for escape. Gran, Mexican-American friends, and the children run away in a trailer to Mexico to seek the kids' Mexican father. Naomi discovers she has always been like her father in looks and in her amazing talent for carving. This becomes apparent in the Night of the Radishes carving contest in Oaxaca, Mexico. A wonderful reunion with her dad gives Naomi the voice to speak out against her mother in court, once Gran and the kids return to the States. Naomi is no longer "nobody special" in the fifth grade, too, when her soap carvings are displayed in the school library. The book treats very serious subjects (child abuse and physical handicaps) with grace and humor. The girl's narration, often in a language of metaphor, both amuses and wrings the heart. 2004, Scholastic Press, Ages 10 to 12.
Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D.
Gr 4-7-Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw lives with younger brother Owen and her fiercely practical Gram in a trailer park in California in this novel by Pam Munoz (Scholastic, 2004). An unpopular fifth grader, she spends lots of time in the library with the other outcasts and the kind librarian. Naomi's talent is carving objects out of soap. After being gone for seven years, her mother shows up one day with a scary boyfriend, Clive. Gram lets the children know that their mother, Terri Lynn, has always been wild and irresponsible. They're worried that she will assert her parental rights and take the children away. Naomi is insecure and particularly susceptible to her mother's attention. Owen is essentially ignored by Terri Lynn because he has some physical deformities, but Clive thinks he could use Owen's deformities to make money gambling. Gram, the neighbors, and the children go to Oaxaca to find the children's father and get him to sign papers making Gram their guardian. Their dad is thrilled to see them, and Naomi learns that her talent for soap carving is inherited from her father. This deeply moving story is expressively and sympathetically narrated by Annie Kozuch. Characterization is excellent and listeners will be happy that Naomi finds confidence, love, and security. A good choice for most collections.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
First-person narrator Naomi Len Outlaw and her bright, physically lopsided little brother Owen feel safe in the routines of life in Lemon Grove, California, with great-grandmother Gram. Naomi, a soft-voiced list-maker and word-collector, is also a gifted soap-carver-something inherited, it turns out, from the Mexican father from whom she and Owen were separated as small children. The unexpected arrival of Naomi's long-absent mother throws everything off balance. The troubled young woman's difficulties threaten to overturn the security Gram has worked to provide for Naomi and Owen. With friends' help, Gram takes the children to Oaxaca City to find their father and gain his support in her custody appeal. Here they are immersed in a world of warmth and friendship, where Naomi's longing to meet the father she dimly remembers intensifies. The annual December radish-carving festival gives Naomi's creativity a chance to shine and makes the perfect setting for a reunion. Naomi's matter-of-fact narrative is suffused with her worries and hopes, along with her protective love for her brother and great-grandmother. Ryan's sure-handed storytelling and affection for her characters convey a clear sense of Naomi's triumph, as she becomes "who I was meant to be." (Fiction. 10-14)First printing of 50,000
Voice of Youth Advocates
December 1, 2004
Naomi Soledad León lives with her brother and great-grandmother in a trailer in Lemon Tree, California. Her biggest problem is being teased by boys in her fifth grade class. Naomi inherited her father's gift for carving and takes after the Mexican side of the family. Quirky little brother, Owen, is an FLK, funny looking kid, with physical defects. When their mother reappears after a seven-year absence, the children are happy to see her, but it soon becomes apparent that she wants to take Naomi with her so that she and boyfriend Clive can collect child support and Naomi can baby-sit Clive's daughter. After the children's mother starts drinking, Gram, who does not have official custody of the children, obtains temporary guardianship and takes the children to Mexico. Naomi takes part in the traditional La Noche de los Rábanos carving competition, and the children meet their father. After an emotional reunion, the children and their great-grandmother return to California to go to court, where Gram is granted guardianship. Themes of divorce, absent parents, biculturalism, inherited traits, physical disabilities, and triumph over adversity are woven through this novel that features realistic characters, both lovable and despicable, and a believable plot. The list-making, soap-carving main character who loves words and the librarian who provides a sanctuary for Naomi and other troubled children will find favor with librarians and teachers. As in Esperanza Rising (Scholastic, 2000/VOYA December 2000), symbols abound, and readers of all ages will enjoy reading of Naomi's transformation and triumph.-Sherry York.
September 15, 2004
Gr. 4-7. Half-Mexican Naomi Soledad, 11, and her younger disabled brother, Owen, have been brought up by their tough, loving great-grandmother in a California trailer park, and they feel at home in the multiracial community. Then their alcoholic mom reappears after seven years with her slimy boyfriend, hoping to take Naomi (not Owen) back and collect the welfare check. Determined not to let that happen, Gram drives the trailer across the border to a barrio in Oaxaca to search for the children's dad at the city's annual Christmas arts festival. In true mythic tradition, Ryan, the author of the award-winning Esperanza Rising (2000), makes Naomi's search for her dad a search for identity, and both are exciting. Mom is demonized, but the other characters are more complex, and the quest is heartbreaking. The dense factual detail about the festival sometimes slows the story, but it's an effective tool for dramatizing Naomi's discovery of her Mexican roots and the artist inside herself. Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist
Review Date: SEPTEMBER 01, 2004
First-person narrator Naomi León Outlaw and her bright, physically lopsided little brother Owen feel safe in the routines of life in Lemon Grove, California, with great-grandmother Gram. Naomi, a soft-voiced list-maker and word-collector, is also a gifted soap-carversomething inherited, it turns out, from the Mexican father from whom she and Owen were separated as small children. The unexpected arrival of Naomi's long-absent mother throws everything off balance. The troubled young woman's difficulties threaten to overturn the security Gram has worked to provide for Naomi and Owen. With friends' help, Gram takes the children to Oaxaca City to find their father and gain his support in her custody appeal. Here they are immersed in a world of warmth and friendship, where Naomi's longing to meet the father she dimly remembers intensifies. The annual December radish-carving festival gives Naomi's creativity a chance to shine and makes the perfect setting for a reunion. Naomi's matter-of-fact narrative is suffused with her worries and hopes, along with her protective love for her brother and great-