Star in the Forest by Laura Resau
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: The illegal immigration problem in the U.S. is multifaceted and complex but this moving story illuminates some of the issues for young readers. Star in the Forest (Random House, 2010) features Zitlally, a young girl in Colorado, whose father is pulled over for speeding, found to be illegally living in the U.S. and is jailed and then deported to Mexico. As the family copes with his absence and takes in boarders in their small trailer to help pay the rent, she finds a stray dog chained up in a local “forest” of an auto junkyard near her trailer park and befriends it, naming it Star for the black star marking on its white fur back. Besides providing her with some much needed diversion and comfort, the dog’s fate seems to be wrapped up with her father’s, perhaps as his special animal spirit, and that helps Zitlally plan her course of action to get her father back safely. This story shows one side of illegal immigration and its effects on the children in these families, and an afterword raises other issues for young readers to consider.
Another strength of the novel is the slow-building friendship with Crystal, a girl whose elaborate lies about her own life serve as her creative storytelling survival technique. Both girls have tough lives but find a way to persevere and find it easier to do with a friend there to support them.
Lynn: Resau packs a lot into this nicely written tale. I especially appreciate the way the book addresses the complex issue of immigration for young readers, taking an issue adults argue about and giving it a personal feel. While immigration and the impact of the father’s deportation on the family are the foundation of the book, the story of Star’s rescue and the girls’ friendship will pull in and hold a wide variety of readers.
I liked this book but I have some quibbles and ended up liking it less than Cindy. Without spoiling the ending I have to say that I felt that the issue of the father was resolved in way that felt much too easy to me and I think it’s ease diminishes the reality of the situation. I’m not sure I completely buy what happens with Star either. It was a gesture that didn’t feel consistent with how important the dog was in Zitally’s life. Still a book that will open a door to an important issue while telling an engaging story.