I imagine what’s inside and take away what I don’t need – Becoming Naomi Leon

Posted on April 29, 2008. Filed under: Reader Response |

A. Becoming Naomi Leon

B. Ryan, Pam Munoz

C. N/A

D. Scholastic Inc. 2004.

E. Multicultural Novel

F. 4-6

G. This remarkable story is about a young girl growing up with her grandma and brother Owen, living in a trailor near San Diego, CA. Her life drastically changes when her mother all of a sudden comes in and wants to start taking care of just her but not her brother because he has somewhat of a handicap. Naomi has never known her father but soon finds out that at some point he really did want both her and Owen but her mother refused this. After getting a few harsh visits from her biological mom and new boyfriend, Clive, her Gram soon realizes that these are not the people the children should be with as the mother has been in and out of half-way houses and hospitals to recover from alcoholism even though she still drinks in front of the kids. Also she slaps Naomi and threatens her too. Naomi, Owen, Gram and their neighbors set down south to Mexico in search of Naomi’s father in hopes of getting his help so Naomi’s mom doesn’t try to get custody of her kids. While in Mexico, Naomi takes part in a festival that is comprised of carving different scenes out of just radishes. Naomi helps and in the process of winning 2nd place her father comes to see but then runs away after realizing who took part in that competition (his kids). He meets them back at the house and explains everything of how he really did want them but their mother refused. He spends as much time with them as he can before they have to go back in order to meet with the mediator about the court case deciding custody of the kids. He writes a letter discouraging the judge of having the kids with their mother but encouraging keeping them with their great-grandmother. When Gram, Owen and Naomi return to Lemon Tree, they enter the courthouse and Skyla (their mother) and Clive also show up completely dressed to fool the part of rightful parents. In the beginning it looks as though their mother will win custody but then Naomi tells her side of the story about her being hit, her mother still drinking, her mother only wanting Owen, threatening Naomi and her Gram, and then the judge completely changes wheels and discusses the matter of only wanting Naomi with Skyla because the judge does not believe in separating siblings. In the end Gram gets full custody and Naomi and Owen already had it worked out that they would see their dad, Santiago every year atleast at Christmas if not more.

H. I feel like I have said this about almost every book we read but I truly loved this book. I quite possibly think its my all time favorite of all of the books we have read in class. It made me feel so many different emotions because I was overjoyed when Naomi and Owen met their dad and got to stay with Gram but was completely outraged when Skyla his Naomi. I felt a little bit of a kinship with Owen because he has a little bit of a handicap but he deals with it in a tremendous fashion. Even though I am a dwarf I feel like I usually see the glass half full rather than empty. I was also very torn when the role of their father came into play because they saw him for the first time after so long and I think that is one thing I truly desire is to see my dad again after he died 9 years ago from cancer. Naomi becomes such a strong person by the end of the book and I think it is so amazing to see characters transform such as she did. The author presented so many different cultural details like the different types of foods that they all ate including the tortillas and bunuelos which are fried tortillas with a sweet glaze. Alot of different neat geography was also included where they talked about how the town in Mexico sat atop of a mesa. When they talked about the different meanings of their names and how both Owen and Naomi’s middle names were named after a saint on their father’s behalf, I thought that was really cool also. I think the author definitely presented an insider perspective because the source that all of this was coming from was exactly Naomi’s thoughts and just her thoughts alone. We always saw what she was thinking and what she thought other people were thinking but never anyone else thinking themselves. Unfortunately I don’t think this work avoids different stereotypes because there are so many different kinds of stereotypes in this story that vary from ethnicity to disabilities to religion to background and in the end all comes to where we are all from and that is definitely an issue that I can see causing trouble in the classroom in the sense that people would discriminate against others for those various reasons. There are so many different uses of figurative language that the author uses and I sometimes found myself just reading past them and not even noticing them but there were alot of metaphors. ” We were only a lick and a promise from the living room/kitchen” p. 24 “Now sitting down with her skinny neck drooping over the table, she looked like a swan peering into a lake.” p. 26There are some forms of imagery like this last quote where you can just picture what is actually happening like your watching a movie. Others are places where you wonder if a girl of Naomi’s age would actually say something as mature as she did like “I imagine what’s inside and take away what I don’t need” p. 14 That is pure poetry to my ears and if some student said that to me I think I would just melt.
I. There are so many different teaching strategies that ofcourse can come from this and first alot of them would focus on multicultural studies where the students would study different parts of Mexico and would do reports, posters, on their findings and maybe we would even have our own celebration of Christmas with the traditional Mexican heritage including the fireworks, make bunuelos, throw the bowl over our heads for good luck and other such traditions! I think it would be really neat for the kids to explore the Mexican heritage as there is so much I didn’t even know existed. I also am a bit worried that different subjects could come up in the classroom such as child abuse or child abandonment and I am unsure as how to handle situations like that those that would come up other than just telling the proper authorities.


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One Response to “I imagine what’s inside and take away what I don’t need – Becoming Naomi Leon”

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Once again, I enjoyed reading your blog! 🙂 You are so honest in your writing, when I read your comments, I feel like you are right beside me telling me what you have written 🙂 Most importantly, I am pleased that the books we have read this semester have MOVED you…the emotional responses this book evokes are unparalleled. We love to love Naomi and Owen and Gram and we love to hate Skyla. But again, as you mentioned, transformation is such a part of this story. We see Naomi grow into the character we love and know; we see Skyla remain horrid…These are real-life issues that surface in this book; similar to Because of Winn Dixie and if students wish to discuss them, we go for it, but we do so with care and caution and without judgment…So many similarities to Opal…remember the lists:)Thanks for your words.

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