Star in the Forest

Posted on Jun 7, 2016 in BR Library

9780375854101By Laura Resau
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7 – 10 Years

Zitlally’s family is undocumented, and her father has just been arrested for speeding and deported back to Mexico. As her family waits for him to return—they’ve paid a coyote to guide him back across the border—they receive news that he and the coyote’s other charges have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom. Meanwhile, Zitlally and a new friend find a dog in the forest near their trailer park. They name it Star for the star-shaped patch over its eye. As time goes on, Zitlally starts to realize that Star is her father’s “spirit animal,” and that as long as Star is safe, her father will be also. But what will happen to Zitlally’s dad when Star disappears?


“Gr 4–6—Seeking solace in a “forest” of abandoned car parts after her father’s deportation, fifth-grader Zitlally befriends a small dog chained to a rusty truck hood and names him Star. Remembering the tales her Nahuatl-speaking Papá told her, she begins to think of the dog as his “spirit animal.” If she can rescue Star, perhaps her father will return safely from Mexico. With her trailer-park neighbor and new friend Crystal, she nurtures and trains the dog, searching for him when he disappears and rescuing him when an injury threatens his life. The magical thinking that worked in Mexico when she was young and frightened by a dog bite works again to reunite her family. Once again, Resau has woven details of immigrant life into a compelling story. The focus is on the developing friendships, both between Zitlally and her previously ignored neighbor, and between the fearful youngster and the dog. Conversations between the two girls are believable and the details of their lives convincing. The first-person narrative moves steadily as Zitlally loses and then gradually recovers her voice and gains confidence. Vignette illustrations introduce the chapters. A version of Zitlally’s father’s spirit animal story, a note about immigration, and glossaries of Spanish and Nahuatl words are appended. This is a well-told and deeply satisfying read.”
—Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
School Library Journal

“When her father is deported, Zitlally, a Mexican girl living in Colorado, feels that her home is breaking into pieces, like the fractions she is studying at school. Her grades start falling, she cannot tell her friends the truth, her mother is always on the phone and she and her sisters are left to their own devices. Zitlally spends the afternoons in a cemetery of old car parts behind her family’s mobile home. She calls this junkyard a forest, and, like the forests described in her father’s folktales, it is magical. Resau introduces preteens to the drama that thousands of children of immigrants face in the United States: the fear of their parents’ deportation. But she also brings in important cultural aspects of the Nahua and the Mixtec communities, like their belief in animal totems, as manifest in Zitlally’s spiritual link to the little dog that she names Star. Zitlally’s first-person narration effectively re-creates the ingenuous voice of an 11-year-old, infused with concern for her family. A story of friendship that will speak to children of different cultures. Nahualt and Spanish glossaries.”
(Fiction. 7-10)
Kirkus Reviews