The Other Side of the River

(Haven't read book 1 yet? Read more about it here!)

The immediacy and danger of the Mexican Revolution launched twelve-year-old Petra Luna unceremoniously into a life in a new country on the other side of the Río Bravo. Instead of finding the peace and prosperity promised by her expectations of America, however, Petra and her family are shuttled into a refugee camp where the threats of hunger and smallpox are ever present. As time passes, Petra and her family make friends with others, and each new day teaches them more about this new country they call home. While the path forward is not always easy, Petra keeps a firm eye on her dreams and will stop at nothing to make them come true.

This continuation of Petra Luna’s story begins shortly after the first book ends and does an excellent job reminding readers of the highlights of the previous installment. It is not critical to have read the first book before engaging with this one, but the back story helps readers better connect to Petra and understand what has made her into the young woman she is becoming. Like in the first book, this story is filled with Spanish language and culture, both of which are woven expertly into the narrative. Readers are introduced to Spanish vocabulary with italics initially, and subsequent mentions of these words appear alongside their English cousins. While this may be unconventional in its approach, it gives readers the clear understanding that for Petra—and for many others—Spanish and English coexist in inextricable harmony.

Beautifully crafted, this story reads somewhat like a diary, immersing readers in Petra’s world as she matures beyond her years. As the oldest child in her family, she must shoulder many of the burdens of ensuring her kin have food to eat and a roof over their heads. Not to mention, Petra must learn all about a new culture and its intrinsic expectations in the process. Dobbs has built upon inspiration from her own family history in this novel that incorporates true events from 1913 with fictional characters that thoughtfully represent real people who lived during this tumultuous time. Filled with cultural references, traditional foods, Spanish language, and deep family connections, this narrative is rich and fulfilling for readers of all ages. This is not only a compelling extension of Petra’s initial tale; it is also an important addition to historical fiction collections for middle grade readers.

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