MIA's Story: A Sketchbook of Hopes and Dreams
Michael Foreman. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3063-8
Foreman (Cat in the Manger) gives readers a portrait of a resourceful girl and an honest yet joyful look at a poverty-stricken family living outside of Santiago, Chile. His sketches, laid out on the page scrapbook-style, depict the shantytown in which Mia lives without flinching. ""There are no pretty gardens or trees,"" a handwritten note on one sketch says. ""The houses are made from odds and ends and bits of trash,"" says another. But Foreman also sees beauty in the shadows on the children's schoolhouse, which he paints an almost iridescent blue, and in the peaks of the Andes Mountains, which loom like castles behind the town. Mia's life lights up when her father brings home a puppy she names Poco, then dims when Poco disappears. After searching for him everywhere, she takes the family horse and heads off into the mountain meadows. There, the snow is clean and the sky is clear, and she finds a kind of lily she's never seen before: ""She knew that whatever happened, they would remind her of how she looked for Poco and found this place in the stars."" She plants the flowers near her home, and they spread quickly. Her father laughs fondly when Mia says she plans to sell them. But when her business becomes a success, he puts his own aside to help her. With skillfully paced storytelling, Foreman draws Mia and her family with compassion, and bolsters the belief that children can accomplish great things. Ages 5-8.
Reviewed on: 07/10/2006