Lucky Broken Girl
Ruth Behar, Author
Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, April 2017; Puffin Books reprint April 2018
2018 Pura Belpré Award
Suitable for Ages: 10-12
Themes: Cuban-Americans, Immigration, Second languages, Injury, Trauma, Family relationships, Friendships, Multicultural
Opening: When we lived in Cuba, I was smart. But when we got to Queens, in New York City, in the United States of America, I became dumb, just because I couldn’t speak English. So I got put in the dumb class in fifth grade at P.S. 117. It’s the class for the bobos, the kids who failed at math and reading.
Synopsis: When Ruthie Mizrahi moves with her family from her homeland of Cuba to the bustling streets of New York, it’s a lot to take in. There are new sights, new sound, and a new language. But Ruthie is adjusting. She’s already mastering English and has made some new friends. In her neighborhood, she is known as the Hopscotch Queen. And she dreams of getting a pair of “go-go” boots, like her friend Danielle.
After she and her family spend the day with old friends on Staten Island, Ruthie and her family are in a car accident on the way home. Ruthie’s leg is broken in several places and she ends up in a body cast that stretches all the way from her chest to her toes. Just when she was starting to feel like life in New York would be okay, she’ll have to lie in bed for eight months and be treated like a baby again. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grows larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how a diverse group of friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
Why I like this book:
This novel has heart, courage and hope. It’s uniquely diverse community of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers will restore your faith in humanity. And readers will cheer Ruthie as she overcomes her fears and learns to walk again.
I especially like how Ruthie turns her anger and hate towards the boy who injured her into forgiveness and hope. She is relieved her parents won’t sue the boy’s family, because she realizes that they lost their son and are suffering. Ruthie concludes that people makes mistakes, but that doesn’t mean their bad.
It is a perfect book for readers recovering from a trauma or injury. As an adult I endured two traumatic injuries, so I understand how frightening this would be for a child. When Ruthie’s cast is removed after eight months, the real recovery begins on both physical and emotional levels. Ruthie is fearful and doesn’t feel safe outside of her bed. She has to find her personal power again in a most remarkable way with the creative help and laughter of many memorable characters supporting her.
Lucky Broken Girl is based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s, as a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl who is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed by a car accident that leaves her in a body cast. The interview with Ruth Behar at the end of the book is a must read. It will give readers greater insight into the story. Visit Behar at her website. There is a short video with the author. This is a great summer read!
Ruth Behar is an acclaimed author of fiction and nonfiction. Lucky Broken Girl, is her first book for young readers. She was born in Havana, Cuba, grew up in New York City, and has also lived in Spain and Mexico. An anthropology professor at the University of Michigan, she is the author of The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, and Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys, and other books about her travels, as well as a bilingual book of poetry, Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and travels often to Miami and Havana.
Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.
14 thoughts on “Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar”
Sounds like an incredible book. I truly get the feeling of being dumb having moved from one country to the next and being placed in the wrong class. That happened to my sister and me (we basically had the same curriculum two years in a row) and I flatly refused to go to school. The next year they switched our school and things were much better. I’ll add this one to my list. Wonderful review, Pat!
Wow, I didn’t know that about you. I imagine that there are a lot of children who will relate to similar situations. You were quite willful as a child. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Let’s just say my mom wasn’t too thrilled w/me at the time.
Yes, but you stood up for yourself. You are a scholar and I can’t imagine how boring those two years must have been for you! Some kids would have taken the easy route and enjoyed the slack. If you were my daughter, I would have been proud!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I enjoyed this story so much. The MC was strong even in the midst of her plight. The many themes explored will certainly capture readers of all ages. I’m glad you recommended this book.
There were so many themes going on in this book, that you were compelled to keep turning the pages. And, I could identify with the full-leg cast up to my hip — but I was a young adult. Can’t imagine 8 months.
Glad you and Gregg liked it so much. It really has a unique twist and I really liked the opening.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree. It does have a unique twist. I enjoyed reading this fast-paced book.
Wow, this sounds powerful. In fact, I suspect that after I read it I’ll share it with my teen daughter who has a connective tissue disease and is still recovering from developing dysautonomia (POTs) when she was eleven. Books like this are so important, as they help kids see they’re not alone and find ways to open up their world!
Yes, I agree. Kids need to see themselves in stories. I know several individuals and a mother and both her son and daughter with a connective tissue disease. They amaze me. I have reviewed other books with kids with different issues, but they all focus on their abilities — they just happen to have CP, Lupus, Autism and so on. Hope you enjoy the book.
Many children will relate to the main character. I certainly feel dumb sometimes as my Spanish is not very good. Can’t imagine being in a body cast for 8 months.
That’s why this is such an important book because kids will identify with Ruthie no matter what they are dealing with.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great review on a very powerful story. I too can not imagine spending 8 months in a body cast. Thanks Pat.
I had a cast on my foot up to my hip as an adult. Not easy to get around. I slid down steps on my fanny and got creative. Can’t imagine being flat on your back!