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Pam Munoz Ryan novels have a dangerous tendency to get me so emotionally involved that all other parts of my brain stop working. So you would think that I would avoid them while operating a motor vehicle… and yet, I listened to Becoming Naomi Leon on audiobook. Naomi and her brother, Owen, have lived with their great-grandmother as a guardian in the Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho for as long as they can remember. Their life with dependable Gram is filled with hand-sewn polyester clothes, predictable early dinners, and lots of simple pleasures. But when their mother suddenly storms back into the picture after seven years, claiming to have recovered from her alcohol abuse problems, their happy little life is blown apart; Naomi has to decide who she really is, and to find her voice to make it known. Naomi is a beautiful character that you can’t help but fall in love with, but Owen! Sweet Owen – who has battled for years through a series of birth defects and disabilities and finds such love and comfort in his family and in a piece of scotch tape – he was the one that stole my heart. Is there anything sadder or more powerful than a child desperate to be loved? Becoming Naomi Leon is somehow raw and painful and still completely appropriate for younger readers. I have no idea how she does it, but like all of Pam Munoz Ryan’s books, this one is worth every tear. #bringtissues
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