The Other Side of the River

Sourcebooks. Sept. 2022. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781728238449.
Gr 5-8–The indomitable Petra continues to fight for her family’s survival in this continuation of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, though familiarity with the previous volume isn’t necessary to enjoy this companion. They’ve outrun the federales, the military arm of Mexico’s dictator, and have made it across the border. But their struggles have only just begun. The group is met with a smallpox-ridden refugee camp, poverty, and racism as 12-year-old Petra tries to find work and learn to read and write. Along the way to San Antonio, their dreams are hindered by obstacles. This is a vivid glimpse into the 1913 Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, much of which is still relevant to today’s immigration and refugee crisis. While Petra is living in a very specific moment in history with a particular conflict, she also must navigate the usual coming-of-age issues that will resonate with current tweens, such as friendships, siblings, and living up to people’s expectations. Her touching relationships with her grandmother and siblings will resonate in readers. Dobbs’s engaging writing and the even pace of the narrative move the story forward. Petra and her family are Indigenous to Mexico. An author’s note gives more context and shares how this story was inspired by Dobbs’s grandmother. Though Petra’s family’s triumph is never in doubt, kids will be pulled in enough to follow the characters’ journey.
VERDICT A moving glimpse at an important historical event through the eyes of an unforgettable protagonist. Purchase for historical fiction shelves.

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