Title: Drita, My Homegirl
Author: Jenny Lomnbard
Pages: 144 pages
Kid Reviewer: Sabra Family
Age: 6, 8 & 9 yo
Age Group: 6 – 8 years old. Grades 1 – 3. Early pre-chapter book readers. It was such easy reading that our 8 year old read it in less than 2 days.
It saddens our family greatly that the publisher and the reviewers say this book should be read by 3rd through 5th graders. We found the vocabulary to be very remedial. The content is not even equivalent to a newsstand newspaper which is geared towards a 3rd to 5th grade level reader, it is so elementary.
Our 8 & 9 year old daughters and I each read this book and collectively give this book 2 out of 5 stars. Our 6 year old gave it a 3.
We do not recommend this book. It’s not the worst book we’ve ever read, but it is not “okay”. Our 8 year old said “I just don’t really like this book”.
We are greatly disappointed that this was nominated for the Nutmeg awards. We discussed chapter by chapter for content, plot, setting, writing style, tone, vocabulary, and mode of each character.
Writing style & tone:
While we understand the author’s desire to use ebonics for Maxie since she’s an African American girl in Bronx, NY, it would have been a better reading experience if Jenny Lombard used proper English when Maxie was thinking and/or describing other parts of her chapters. However, we were impressed that Maxie was actually able to write a fourth grade level proper English speech for the last chapter. Since she was able to do this, we collectively believe that the author used ebonics too freely, as we believe Maxie was/is much more capable of always speaking poorly, especially since her father and grandmother did not approve and Maxie was able to correct herself.
- This book is definitely too elementary in its writing style and vocabulary for the 4th – 6th grade Intermediate Nutmeg Nominee category. Our 2nd grader easily read the first chapter, but given our review of this book; she too became uninterested in this book. It’s a very simple, easy “chapter” book, equivalent to picture chapter books for early (not intermediate) readers.
- It is definitely not for 9 -12 year olds, as Puffin describes.
- The author did not thoroughly research Muslims, for example the father put out his hand to shake with their case worker, a woman. As Muslims, we do not shake/touch the opposite sex except within immediate family members.
- Ramazan is the less popular way, and incorrect way to spell Ramadan. It’s ‘dal’ in Arabic = D in English; not ‘dhal’ = ‘zal’ in Arabic = Z in English.
- We don’t know if it was assumed to be a Kosovar’s, Muslim’s or foreigner’s explanation, but when Drita was thinking about her mother’s unusual behavior and although she was curious, she said she didn’t ask her grandmother (let alone her father) questions, because as a young girl she’s not supposed to ask or discuss those kinds of things!? A concerned, lovingly daughter interested in the well-being of her mother is perfect reason to mature with this experience, by asking questions and seeking answers. This was a great missed opportunity for Jenny Lombard to educate her readers.
Things we did not like in this book:
- Maxie’s description of Drita being as white as a scary “ghost” and being tall and thin is “awkward”. MashaAllah, God willed, the Albanians have beautiful, fair white skin, and tall, thin physiques. The reader is left to think that either Maxie is really cruel, or Albanians are scary and ugly. While we read at different paces, this one scene jumped out for all three of us.
- There were numerous typos and grammatical errors. If it was on purpose to show how poor Maxie’s English is through ebonics, this only creates a “dumber” reader through the “dumb” character; which we do not promote. We actually discussed throughout our reading experience, that “Maxie “sounds” stupid, but is not *that* stupid!” Often, we discussed that it looks like Jenny Lombard is obviously not African American, yet she’s trying to write as or for African Americans–she’s doing a very poor job of both. It’s obviously, in the scene when Maxie is defining “homey” and “homegirl”.
Missed opportunities for Jenny Lombard to educate her audience and create a more complete reading experience:
- The scene when Drita was bulleed and punched left the reader thinking “well, what happened to Drita?” Jenny Lombard missed the opportunity for her teacher, principal and parents to share some compassionate, empathic, emotional moments with Drita; so the reader can experience more than “oh, the bullies got punished, but the victim was still friend-less victim”. Drita and the other characters could have been more triumphant emotionally and socially in this scene. Drita’s conversation with her grandmother did not suffice for us. Also, two weeks of being “benched” rather than suspended was a very light punishment for a slap in the face and being punched in the stomach.
- Why did Jenny Lombard than leave her young readers still wondering what is medically, psychologically or emotionally wrong with Drita’s mom? Since she was admitted and released from the hospital without any explanation, we leave the story with a parent, guardian and/or teacher to assume or try to figure out and then describe to our readers that maybe she had post traumatic stress disorder, is severely depressed, experiencing hallucinations, and/or other issues. Rather then having the adult reader assume something that the author actually wrote into the storyline, why not define and describe it in an educational way for Drita, Maxie, and most of all her readers.
- We agreed that while Maxie matured into a more open-minded, kind, young girl willing to open herself up to her “secret” of her mother’s death with her new found close friend in Drita, the multiple reviews sharing that “this is a story of two girls from different worlds coming together as close friends” (paraphased) is not a unique theme to entice readers to read this story. It’s a redundant theme shared in many books for girls in this age group; and given all the reasons written in our review, we do not find anything unique enough to recommend this book.
- Even the notable reviews share that its theme connecting bullies with war and refugees as poignant; in our view, it is unfounded. We feel strongly that the author does not give justice to these idealistic reviews. We expected much greater things from these highly inflated reviews and was gravely disappointed. These reviews make my family wonder about the veracity of these reviews from notable news sources. The “idea” for this book was good, but the story did not fill its ideals.
While we may be a bit defensive, since we’re reading other Nutmeg Nominees simultaneously; and have not faced any of these above problems in any other book thus far, we feel “Drita, My Homegirl” should not be categorized with these books at all.
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