Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan

Summary: Grade 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.–B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY

Identity, Family, Overcoming Adversity, Belonging

Classroom Implications: This novel carries a strong Latina voice of a female protagonist throughout the novel. Students are able to relate to the character's journey to discover her family history and her identity. This book makes a good choice for lower level readers ins 6th and 7th grade, as well as provides help to sp. ed. students in a full inclusion setting.


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