Author: Jenny Lombard
Interest Level: Grades 3 and up
Description from the Book Website: Drita and her family come to New York as refugees from war-torn Kosovo. Even though she barely speaks English, Drita can’t wait to start school and make a new best friend. But her new classmates don’t make it easy, teasing her about virtually everything. The worst is Maxie, a tough African-American girl whose sassy attitude hides a painful secret.
When Maxie takes things too far, their teacher assigns Maxie a paper on Drita and her journey to America from Kosovo. Suddenly, Maxie realizes she and Drita have more in common than she thought. And when Drita’s mother gets sick, there’s only one person who can help—Drita’s new homegirl.
A sensitively written story of two worlds coming together, Drita, My Homegirl touchingly explores the effects of war on a family and how friendship sometimes appears in the unlikeliest places.
Why It's On My Bookshelf: I always have a lot of optimism as the school year begins that students will continue to blossom in their math, reading, and writing skills....but more importantly I have a hope in my heart they will also grow as a community. If you want to create, build, and bind positive student relationships then start with an inspiring story like Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard. It will inspire kids to be appreciative, compassionate, sensitive, and take care of one another. Starting in third grade I sometimes notice a negative shift in friendships. This sometimes stems from the differences they notice about each other. Instead of taking a genuine interest and being curious about diversity, sometimes kids can knock one another down with hurtful teasing and exclusion. Enter Drita and Maxie, two girls with not a lot of commonality...sounds like a lot of students in my school. Each chapter changes back and forth between their voices. This is key to developing empathy and understanding towards their personal stories. It reminded me of the quote, "Never judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes." Drita, My Homegirl embodies those words. It's also the adults who get Maxie to take a REAL look at who Drita is and what she's been going through. This allows Maxie to show her own vulnerabilities and it sparks her caring side to come forward. I'm excited to have this in our school library this year. But it can also be used as a wonderful read aloud that will surely increase empathy, friendship, and community building.
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