Star in the Forest

by Laura Resau

Sixth grader Zitlally’s family is in the United States illegally. When Papá... read more

Sixth grader Zitlally’s family is in the United States illegally. When Papá is picked up for speeding and deported back to Mexico, Zitlally becomes convinced that her father’s fate is tied to that of a dog she finds chained and starving in the woods near her trailer park. She thinks the dog, whom she calls Star—the meaning of her own name in the Nahuatl language—is Papá’s spirit animal. That means Papá’s safe return and Star’s well-being are dependent upon one another. Zitlally does her best to care for the dog, finding a surprising source of help in her neighbor Crystal. Zitlally has never gotten to know Crystal well— Zitlally’s friends at school didn’t think Crystal was worth getting to know—but she discovers that Crystal is not only a good ally in caring for Star but a good friend as well. Crystal tells grand lies about her own father, but Zitlally recognizes the pain beneath them and the desire to make up a brighter story than the truth. Wonderful descriptive language and fully realized, sensitively portrayed characters are among the literary qualities that distinguish this short, accessible novel that seamlessly incorporates spiritual elements into an illuminating look at the fears and struggles of undocumented families. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011

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