star in the forestStar in the Forest
By Laura Resau
Published by Yearling

“This beautifully written story will lead to discussions among young readers and perhaps foster a better understanding of the plight of illegal Mexican workers in the United States today.” –Children’s Literature

“Resau introduces preteens to the drama that thousands of children of immigrants face in the United States…A story of friendship that will speak to children of different cultures.” –Kirkus Reviews

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Description
Zitlally’s family is undocumented, and her father has just been arrested for speeding and deported back to Mexico. As her family waits for him to return—they’ve paid a coyote to guide him back across the border—they receive news that he and the coyote’s other charges have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom. Meanwhile, Zitlally and a new friend find a dog in the forest near their trailer park. They name it Star for the star-shaped patch over its eye. As time goes on, Zitlally starts to realize that Star is her father’s “spirit animal,” and that as long as Star is safe, her father will be also. But what will happen to Zitlally’s dad when Star disappears?

Reviews & Accolades
“As in Francisco Jiménez’s The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (1997) and Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising (2000), Resau’s novel tells a child’s migration story with simple immediacy…Always true to Zitlally’s viewpoint, the unaffected writing makes clear the anguish of illegals...A pronunciation guide, a glossary, and a note about immigration from Mexico to the U.S. close this unforgettable narrative of a girl’s daily struggle to find a home.” –Hazel Rochman, Booklist

Once again, Resau has woven details of immigrant life into a compelling story. The focus is on the developing friendships, both between Zitlally and her previously ignored neighbor, and between the fearful youngster and the dog. Conversations between the two girls are believable and the details of their lives convincing. The first-person narrative moves steadily as Zitlally loses and then gradually recovers her voice and gains confidence…This is a well-told and deeply satisfying read.” –Kathleen Isaacs, School Library Journal

Resau introduces preteens to the drama that thousands of children of immigrants face in the United States: the fear of their parents’ deportation. But she also brings in important cultural aspects of the Nahua and the Mixtec communities, like their belief in animal totems, as manifest in Zitlally’s spiritual link to the little dog that she names Star. Zitlally’s first-person narration effectively re-creates the ingenuous voice of an 11-year-old, infused with concern for her family. A story of friendship that will speak to children of different cultures.” –Kirkus Reviews

“This beautifully written story will lead to discussions among young readers and perhaps foster a better understanding of the plight of illegal Mexican workers in the United States today.” –Children’s Literature

Groups Represented
Mexican American

Themes
Illegal immigration, multicultural friendship, cultural traditions

Setting
United States

Author Research
From the author’s website:

I wrote Star in the Forest while playing hooky from the book I was supposed to be writing at the time (The Indigo Notebook). I had a contract and tight deadline for The Indigo Notebook, but after hearing from the girl whose dad had been deported, I really wanted to write a story that reflected her reality. I knew that the responsible and logical thing to do would be to finish Indigo first, and then start the next book… but I just couldn’t wait!

I felt, very strongly, that this was a story that needed to be told without delay. Many students I’ve met on school visits, kids in my community, and children of friends of mine have dealt with the emotional pain of a much-loved relative getting deported. I wanted to offer these kids a story that resonated with their own fears and triumphs. I also wanted their classmates, friends, teachers, and neighbors to have a chance to “walk in their shoes.” I was afraid that if I put off writing the story, I might never get around to doing it.

…I must tell you that the main elements of this story had been brewing in my unconscious for many years. Back before my first book was published, I wrote a short story about a Mexican girl who had recently come to live in the U.S. with her parents, who were undocumented immigrants. When she missed her village in Mexico, she would find refuge in the secret car part “forest” behind her trailer. There, she bonded with a stray dog and a girl from her school.
Over the years, I would pull out the story and fiddle with it, but I felt that some big piece was missing. I just couldn’t figure out what. Finally, when I heard from the real-life girl whose dad had recently been deported, I realized that this was the heart of the story. For years, I’d known its framework, and all I had to do was weave in this final, yet essential, element.

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