Thursday, September 02, 2010

Take Me With You Will Hit a Nerve, Then Steal Your Heart

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Bombs are no longer falling on Naples, but evidence of the war years can be seen all over the city. Especially at the Instituto di Gesu Bambino, where some of its youngest victims dwell. Under the watchful eyes of the nuns, the orphaned girls eat, sleep, play, worship and wish. They long for their long-lost parents, some dead, some neglectful, some simply away. Mostly, they want homes of their own, with closets full of dresses, pantries stuffed with food, and Mamminas to tuck them in at night. The couples who come to scrutinize the girls at the chiesa must surely be wealthy if they can take a child into their family when all of Italy seems to teeter on the brink of starvation.
All the girls at the Instituto try to use their best manners when prospective parents visit. Susanna is always on her best behavior, even though she knows no one will want her. Unlike her friend Pima, whose angel face and golden locks make her the prettiest girl at the orphanage, Susanna has skin the color of a cappucino and a riot of dark curls that refuse to be tamed. Who would want a mulatta like her when they could have a rosy-cheeked cherub like Pima? She dreams of the day the American soldier, the nero man who is her father, will return. But, it's only a foolish daydream. If he hasn't come back to her in ten years, why would he now?
When Susanna receives an unexpected visitor, she begins to hope again. Will she finally find the family she's always wanted? Will the attention she's getting drive a wedge between her and her best friend, Pima? Or is Susanna's good fortune enough to save them both?
Of all the books in Candlewick Press' catalog, it was Take Me With You by Carolyn Marsden that caught my eye. With a bi-racial protagonist, an Italian setting, and themes of adoption and racial identity, it seemed to be right up my alley. Based on the true experiences of the author's friend, this middle grade novel paints a realistic, but sympathetic portrait of the plights of children orphaned by the war. Although the book is short, only 160 pages, the characters and setting come to vivid life in Marsden's capable hands. The story is harsh in many ways, yet undeniably hopeful. Mostly, it's about friendship, family, and the eternal longing for home. This lovely little story will hit a nerve, then steal your heart. It's an affecting novel that's not to be missed.
(Readalikes: Hm, I don't know. Any ideas?)
Grade: B
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for vague references to prostitution
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Take Me With You from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!

3 comments:

  1. *waves* returning the favor from the Hop!

    I actually like long reviews :) and I think you do a great job on them. Keep it up! your blog is really good.

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  2. You had me on "Italian setting." :-) The themes of racial identity and adoption intrigue me, too.

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  3. I'm with Stephanie, the setting of Italy along with racial identity and adoption has me initruged. I really like stories about the role of different cultures in WWII and even though this book seems to be post-WWII, I'm hoping there were some tidbits about African Americans fighting in this war.

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