Book Review: Drita, My Homegirl

drita

New York public elementary schools are often the first place that city kids interact on a deeper level with people of different ethnic, cultural, and racial backgrounds.  As a New York public school teacher, Jenny Lombard, brings her expertise about diversity in the classroom to her debut novel, Drita, My Homegirl.  Sure to be an impactful read-aloud for third graders, Drita is a story told from alternating first-person narratives of two fourth graders, Drita and Maxie.  Drita, a Serbian refugee from war-torn Kosovo is a new student in a new country with very limited knowledge of the English language.  She has just entered Miss Salvato’s class in her new public school in Brooklyn, New York.  Maxie is an African-American girl, who has been keeping the secret of her mother’s death from her circle of friends.  Her grief has turned into rebellion.  As a way to harness Maxie’s energy, Miss Salvato perceptively assigns Maxie to research Drita’s story.  An unlikely friendship begins to emerge.  At times didactic, Drita is ultimately a lesson in empathy, addressing exclusion, immigration, poverty, loss, and friendship, but surprisingly leaving issues related to race in America untouched.  Drita is a satisfying read for students who appreciate a tidy ending.  Drita, My Homegirl is the perfect primer for reading R.J. Polacio’s Wonder a couple of years later.

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