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Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

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Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
Written by Alda P. Dobbs
Published by Sourcebooks Young Readers
Ages 8+
Available September 14, 2021

War, Promises, and Aspirations: A Review of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

It is September 1913, and the Mexican Revolution is well underway. Mexico is in the thick of the war between the Federales (the cruel army of Mexican President Victoriano Huerta), and the Revolucionarios (army of the people, fighting for liberty). In the small village of Esperanzas, we find 12-year-old Petra Luna. Her lifelong dream is to go to school and learn to read, but she must put it on hold to take on the responsibility of caring for her grandmother, younger sister, and baby brother. With her mother’s passing and her father forced to join the Federales, Petra made a promise to provide for her family and keep them safe. She struggles to keep this promise when the Federales attack Esperanzas and Petra and her family must flee with only the clothes on their backs. They trek the desert barefoot, finding temporary safe havens only to have to leave when danger arises. Petra must fight every minute of the day to protect her family, but she is determined to get them to America and away from the war. Will she be able to cross the Mexican-American border, keep her promise, and bring her dreams to fruition?

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna is a story of bravery, courage, truth, and generosity in the face of adversity; not shying away from tough subjects like death, murder, famine, and people with cruel hearts and minds. Narrated by a mature 12-year-old voice, Petra’s journey illustrates that sometimes in life you will have to deal with harsh realities, but you can find direction and peace by connecting with your roots. Readers will know the power of independence, believing in themselves, and staying true to who they are. Inspired by the experiences of Alda Dobbs’ great grandmother, it serves as a cultural history lesson. Dobbs uses Spanish words throughout the book to show Petra’s culture and teach non-native speakers a little bit of the Spanish language. Dobbs shares the details of her great grandmother’s story in the author’s note and also includes a timeline of real-life events that took place during the Mexican Revolution. Barefoot Dreams is an important read for children not only to learn a significant part of Mexican history but also to learn the strength of being loyal to family, being unselfish, and keeping promises.
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Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Kids for an eARC in exchange for review. All opinions are my own, as usual.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna is a powerful novel about a girl trying to save her family during the Mexican Revolution. Having never read a book about this historical event, I'm glad I chose this one first. The author uses the stories her ancestors told her about the time to write the book. This is very clear in the emotions jumping off the page. The book explains the political climate, but focuses mostly on the experiences of innocent civilians fighting for their lives crossing the desert, something you would not get from a textbook. This is a new auto-recommendation read for me. 

TW: War, death of infants, injury, discussions of hanging
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Set in 1913 in northern Mexico during the Revolutionary War, Petra and her family flee their small town when the Federales arrive and destroy everything in their path. Desperate to find a safe place and protect her family, Petra leads them north toward the Mexico/US border with the hope of escaping into a country where there is hope for a brighter future. Petra’s resilience through harsh desert conditions, violence, and destruction proves that hope is a powerful force against the injustices of war. 

The story is based on the real-life experiences of the author’s great-grandmother, and it’s an important piece of history to know. Young readers will get a better understanding of why many families escaped from Mexico to the United States, and it sheds some perspective on the issues that continue today. Petra has so much responsibility placed on her, and yet she continues to meet each challenge with bravery and hope for the future. She inspired me with her desire to learn to read and her loyalty to her family when she wanted to join the Revolutionarios and fight to save her country. 

I would recommend this book for upper middle grade readers who enjoy reading historical fiction and stories about young people who face the challenge of war.
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One of my reading challenges has the reader cover a wide variety of genres and specific types of books. One was an Own Voices book. When NetGalley offered Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna to me, I knew I’d found the perfect type of Own Voices book: historical fiction of events for which I had no knowledge, reading about another culture, a middle grade/YA book about a child coming of age. I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wow. Just wow. This book was just incredible. I could not put it down, I could not believe it was a children’s book. I could seriously see this book winning the Newbery medal next year. That’s how good it is.

Petra is a very strong young lady that has had to grow up fast. There’s been a revolution going on for a while (in 1913 Mexico), her mother died during childbirth the year before, and her father was taken away by the Federales to fight for them or face death. Petra is left living with her grandmother, her 6-year old sister and 1-year old brother. It’s up to her to keep food on the table. She does this by chopping firewood and selling it.

Then the Federales come to town and take everything of value from the homes before they burn down the village. Petra and her family are forced to take to the road to find the next town with a train station. Along their trip through the desert, the come upon a church which provides respite for a few days. Then, the priest kicks them out because the Federales are on their way. They need to find the train station, which requires a few days walking in the desert with very little water or food.

The family runs into some members of Pancho Villa’s revolutionary forces and Petra is asked to become a soldier. Instead, she says the family will make it’s way to the Rio Bravo and cross it to America to escape the revolution. Once they get to the border, the price to cross is so large, there’s no way they can afford it. To top it off, the few rebel soldiers in town at the border are leaving, and the Federales are on the way.

The tension throughout the book is palpable. The danger Petra’s family faces at every turn seems insurmountable. This is a gripping tale, where if you don’t know the history of Mexico’s revolution, and even if you do, you might not know this particular tale. The author says this book was inspired by family events that had been passed down orally. Then Dobbs researched the information and found a newspaper article describing the events she’s been hearing about for years confirming the family story.

I highly recommend this book, not just for children, but for adults, too It’s a harrowing tale that needs to be old.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna will be released in September 2021.
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In 1913, the revolutionary war is raging in Mexico. Twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s father has been conscripted into the Federal army against his will and may never return. Petra’s mother had died in childbirth less than a year before leaving Petra with an infant brother to raise along with her six-year-old sister Amelia. Her grandmother, Abuelita, helps as much as her arthritic knees can manage, but the bulk of the work falls on Petra’s young shoulders. 

When the Federales burn down Petra’s town, they’re forced to flee into the desert with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Thanks to Abuelita’s knowledge of desert life, they find the water-dense plants that keep them alive long enough to reach safety in a church. 

While there, among the hundreds of refugees, Petra makes friends with Adeline, an American girl, who teaches Petra how to write her name. This small taste of literacy fuels Petra’s determination to go to school someday. However, her grandmother scoffs at her dream and tells her to accept her lot in life. Petra is angry that her that her beloved Abuelita doesn’t support her ambitions. This battle between the traditional ways and Petra’s desire to have a better life added depth and tension to this refugee survival tale. 

Petra is one of the strongest and most courageous characters I’ve had the pleasure to meet in a middle grade novel. Her resilience and resourcefulness was inspiring even as I recoiled from the hardships that Petra and her family experience. The vibrant, realistic descriptions had me feeling every bleeding blister and gnawing, empty stomach. 

Based on the true story of the author’s great-grandmother, this intense and terrifying journey of Petra and her family was hard to read, and yet, even harder to put down. Culturally rich, character-driven, and fast-paced, this is a must-read for historic fiction fans especially because of the unique setting of the Mexican revolution.
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This is a very powerful book about a young girl who is born in raised in Mexico.  She has big dreams and an even bigger heart. She has undergone much suffering and difficulty but refuses to give up on her Barefoot Dreams.  This is a very serious book with big issues and a lot of violence.  It is a book that is not for the sensitive child or faint of heart as it deals with very realistic consequences of war and hostility. It has a great message and is a ray of hope amidst a very difficult background.
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Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna is an inspiring story of promises, determination, and one incredible girls bravery and courage as she leads her family north to safety.  It tells the story of Petra, a twelve-year- old girl who's been struggling over the loss of her mother who died giving birth to her younger brother and whose father was taken by Federale soldiers to join the revolution.  That was six months ago, but the pain is still raw.  Papa promised Petra he would return,  since then she's been fulfilling her promise to take care of the family by collecting wood which she sells for food.  Petra has been holding on to the piece of coal he gave her, and to her dream of one day learning to read, maybe to even become a teacher.  Then one day, Federales come to their small village looking for young men to join the war, upset that the men are all gone, they burn down the village,  forcing Petra and her family to flee into the hills.  Thus begins the harrowing trek that takes Petra and her family across treeless lands, with the sun bearing down on them, and little provisions or water to even sustain them, all while hiding from the Federales and avoiding scorpions, coyotes and rattlesnakes.  

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna was inspired by stories told to the author by her grandmother and great-grandmother growing up.  The main character, Petra Luna, was also inspired by the historical events surrounding the author's own families escape from their burning village after being attacked by Federale soldiers in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution.  Per the authors note at the end of the book, in 1913 there were over 6,000 people trying to cross over a bridge into the United States when the gates were closed.  It wasn't until the Federales showed up threatening people along the border that they were allowed entrance into the U.S.   Petra's story is a heartfelt, compelling historical fiction that seems to mirror current events at the Mexican American border.  Even now refugees are enduring the harsh desert on foot, hoping to reach the border and be granted entrance to seek asylum in the United States.  Though the story is written about events that took place a long time ago, it's written in a way that is easily accessible to younger children and will help build empathy. 
*A huge thank you to the author and publisher for the E-ARC*
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A deeply emotionally story of a young girl, 12 years of age keeping a promise to her father to look after her family.   Her dad had been forced to join the Federales, he had put himself to be shot rather than join, but Petra persuaded him otherwise.  About 1913, Mexico faced a Revolution.  Petra’s mother had died in childbirth and so after her father was conscripted she was forced to take control.  The Federales destroyed the family village but Petra escaped along with her grandmother, her younger sister and baby brother.  

Their journey North is amazing, the author based the book on stories she had heard from her grandmother and great grandmother.
A page turner, and one I highly recommend you read, it shows that fortitude and courage can win over extreme hardships.  It also gives you an insight to immigration!   A quick read.
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Phenomenal historical fiction giving insight into a period of history not often known to young readers. Fast-paced and engaging, readers will keep turning the page as they follow along on Petra’s journey. The author’s note at the end explaining the author’s family connection to the story as well as the timeline of historical events will help readers fully understand the story. Highly recommended.
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Posted on Goodreads- 
I can’t remember the last time I finished a book in 48 hours! Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda Dobbs was one of the best young adult books I have read in a long time. The characters were well developed, the story line was mesmerizing, and I felt ever emotion throughout the book. Petra was a determined little girl who was loyal to her family and followed the direction of her father. 

This is a wonderful middle school aged book to share the story of the Mexican Revolution of 1913. It was full of emotion, perseverance, and determination! 

Synopsis by the publisher: 

It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna's mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left—her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito—until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none.

Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: "They're like us barefoot peasants and indios—they're not meant to go far." But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border—a life where her barefoot dreams will become reality

Thank you to #Netgalley and Sourcebooks Kids for this pre-released book. I can guarantee it will stay with me for a long time.
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The blurb: "It's 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna's mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, (Federales) Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left―her Abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito―until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns...Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: "They're like us barefoot peasants and indios―they're not meant to go far." But Petra refuses to listen."

This Middle-Grade historical fiction novel is amazing! The government troops have already conscripted all the males into their army while the women and children scrape by avoiding starvation and death. When Petra's village is set afire by the Federales, she flees with her family. 

Petra flees to the north and encounters several obstacles and people: the female Captain of the revolutionary rebels, the middle class and rich folk escaping to the US, the murderous Federales, and those who show her kindness and humanity. 

At 12 y.o. Petra is the decision-maker, the problem solver, and exhibits the courage of an adult.  Socio-economic issues are highlighted without being preachy: "I wanted stability in my life. I wanted to go to school...I wanted a better Mexico. A Mexico that belonged to everyone, not just the rich..." 

Her culture as a mestizo is also evident through the language of her grandmother (Nahuatl),  "I'd never been ashamed of my dark skin or full lips...Girls with dark skin were expected to feel ashamed, to walk with their heads low and know their place in the world." 

We travel with Petra through the treacherous desert, abroad trains, through rain, heat, and near starvation. The choices she has to make are often heartbreaking. There is so much suspense, action, and tension in the pages and it's was not easy to put the book away for the evening. 

This novel would serve well in middle schools and high school curricula to discuss many issues. (Although this is for 4-8 grade readers). Although at times, this might read as much higher than MG level, the book is appropriate for any young teen. The Mexican Revolution is very important and this novel would be a great read for adults too. 

My interest in this novel was peaked because my grandfather came to the US during the Revolution to avoid being conscripted by the Federales. My kid's great-grandfather was kidnapped by the Federales and escaped by hopping a train (much like Petra) and riding it until he got to Chicago, Ill. 

There are thousands of stories like this in the memories of those who have escaped their country during war-time or famine. Children need to know what their ancestors or neighbors have gone through. 

NetGalley provided an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. I recommend you pre-order this novel which is due out in Sept. 2021.
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Alda P. Dobbs’ novel was inspired by her great-grandmother’s experiences. This was a beautiful heart-wrenching story about the Mexican Revolution. In 1913 Petra Luna does everything she can to keep her Abuelita and her younger siblings safe. During the toughest times, Petra draws on her bravery, strength, and love. I learned so much about the Mexican Revolution while reading this book. This is a wonderful book for middle age students.
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In 1913 Mexico the Revolution is in full swing, and 12-year-old Petra Luna has sworn to protect the little family she has left, her abuelita, little sister Amelia and baby brother, Luisito.  Petra’s mother died after giving birth, and since then her father has been conscripted into the army by the Federales.  When he left, he made Petra promise to take care of the family until they are reunited.  When the Federales burn down their town, Petra and her little family flee north through the desert hoping to find a safe place.  
Petra’s story is one of bravery, leadership and love. For a person so young she has experienced a lot of hardships. Petra has had to stand up and take the lead for her small family. The Mexican revolution is heartbreaking to read about as you read about families torn apart, towns burned down, and the battle for freedom. Petra is a wonderful role model for young readers as she strives for a better world for herself.
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Infused with deep love and respect for family history, Alda P. Dobbs' BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA is harrowing and beautiful historical fiction set during the Mexican Revolution. Young readers' hearts will ache for Petra as she struggles to protect her family after their village is destroyed by the Federales. I learned so much about the 1913 revolution in reading this book, yet it never felt like a history lesson... only a poignant and heartrending story about a girl's struggle to survive and make a future for herself and her family. And the acknowledgements, in which Dobbs speaks to the importance of keeping our ancestors' spirits alive, absolutely brought me to tears. Thank you, Sourcebooks for Young Readers, for the eARC.
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This beautiful book tells the story of a 12 year old girl, Petra Luna, who is trying to survive during the 1913 Mexican Revolution. Her mother is dead and her father has been forced to go fight in the war. She is left with her grandmother and 2 younger siblings to figure out how to survive in a violent war torn country. They are attached and intimidated by the soldiers and left homeless with no where to go. Petra Luna takes the lead as her family journeys to find safety. I loved that a 12 year old girl is the hero of this story. She challenges gender stereotypes while also showing the reader valuable historical information about this time and place. It is an inspiring, engaging and powerful story for middle grades students.
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