The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

This freshly imagined story of an immigrant girl, taking off from the author’s grandmother’s story, is filled with determination, hard-won joy, as well as hope and humor. 

The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2022

ISBN 9781728238449

Review copy kindly sent by the author. 

In The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, Petra went from one challenge to another in her epic journey leading her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito through the war-torn revolutionary Mexico of 1913 to the safety of the United States.  Now, they’re refugees in a disease-riddled camp in Texas.  Petra’s mission is to find a job that will pay enough that her family can find more permanent housing of their own, while still searching for news of her missing father and cousin.  But jobs are in short supply in general, and even worse for a twelve-year-old girl looking for pay high enough to support a family.  Their journey continues from the refugee camp to colorful San Antonio.  

Yet even as Petra works her hardest to improve her family’s situation, she’s getting mixed messages from the world around them.  They’re provided with great food in the refugee camp, for example, but none of the people there to offer jobs want to hire Petra.  She’s still told far too often that wanting to read is dreaming far above her station and will only lead to heartbreak.  And once in San Antonio, many people look down on her even more than they did in Mexico. Still, despite the prejudice, there are genuinely kind people who want to help, like the nun who gives her her first pair of shoes and starts teaching her to read, and it’s part of Petra’s challenge to learn to tell them apart from those who only want to take advantage of her.  As always, she carries the lump of coal that her father gave to her before they were separated, a reminder that it takes pressure to turn coal into a diamond.  

Readers will want to start with Barefoot Dreams, but the break between books is sharp enough and there’s enough context given that I think they’ll be able to start here if they can’t read the books in order for whatever reason.  Petra is filled with so much heart, her passion leading to enough mistakes for her journey to feel authentic. Sentences are straightforward yet limpid and poetic, somehow carrying the feeling of expressive writing that still feels like it could easily be translated back into Spanish.  (Not that translating is easy!)  Barefoot Dreams justly won honors, and I hope that The Other Side of the River wins similar acclaim.  

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
This entry was posted in Historical, Middle Grade, Print and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

  1. I really enjoyed this book too and agree that you don’t have to read book 1 to read this one. Natalie @ Literary Rambles

  2. Pingback: Nominate Me for the Cybils – 2022 Edition | alibrarymama

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