I’ve read more books about diverse characters and their stories of immigration this year than I had the previous four years combined. And that’s a good thing.
This story is unique in that it is based on an experience the author had as a child. Her family immigrated from Cuba to New York City in the 1960s. Like the protagonist, Ruthie Mizrahi, Ms. Behar was involved in a car accident that left her bedridden at the age of nine.
For Ruthie, a hopscotch loving Jewish Cuban girl, she’s just getting used to a new culture, finally getting out of the dumb class (a special class for her to work on language skills), and making new friends when the accident occurs. It was hard enough leaving Cuba, the only home she knew, but this traumatic experience makes adjusting all the more difficult.
In a body cast, barely able to move Ruthie is faced with a new direction in her life. Friends treat her differently and the constant care she needs is stressful for the entire family, especially her Mami. Heartfelt and eye opening, the book moves like an airport taxiway, sending you to discover new things and the courage it takes to face the future.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017 PAGE COUNT: 256
FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: LUCKY BROKEN GIRL by Ruth Behar
- The other characters who support Ruthie in her quest to get better are numerous. My favorites were Ramu, a classmate from India, and Chicho, a nice neighbor man from Mexico. They give Ruthie hope when there doesn’t seem to be any.
- Food and music play an important role. The food was a joy to savor. Bring me a puff. I also never guessed I’d ever see Nancy Sinatra’s old song These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ in a middle grade book. Better yet, these boots become a significant story line.
- Yes, it’s sad but there is optimism. My heart sank every time Ruthie went to the doctor and he frowned at the x-ray. It made her last visit all the more glorious.
- A few days with the flu or a pesky cold will be a minor inconvenience now that I’ve read Ruthie’s story. Being trapped in a plaster cocoon for almost a year brings challenges only the strongest would be able to endure.
- Books become a new friend to Ruthie. Nancy Drew especially. Yes, books can heal.
I am not dumb. I am not dumb. I am not dumb…
The first time I worked up the courage to raise my hand in class was a few weeks after we had arrived from Cuba and I was wearing flip-flops instead of shoes and socks like the other kids. But when our teacher, Mrs. Sarota, called on me to answer the math problem, I didn’t have the words to say the number in English.
If there’s a message in the novel that’s very important for children it’s that maybe there’s a change in your life and you’re not the person you were before, but that’s not a bad thing. You have to accept it.
(For more about LUCKY BROKEN GIRL and Ruth’s other stories visit her author web site.)
Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.