Kid Lit Review of “A Thirst for Home” by Christine Leronimo

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This is the story of a young girl from Ethiopia named Alemitu, which means world. Her mother, Emaye, can no longer feed her, and sends her to the United States for adoption, but not before telling her she will love her forever.

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Alemitu’s American mother is a loving woman who is “the color of the moon” and the girl feels safe again. She is given the name Eva, which means life. In America she also acquires a sister, two brothers, a dad, and a dog.

In her new home, water is plentiful, unlike it was in Ethiopia, and Eva wishes she could show her birth mother. When she hears raindrops, she remembers what Emaye told her:

All over the world, the clouds make the rain and the rain brings us our water. This connects us to everyone and everywhere. Water is life.”

The next morning after the rain, Eva looks into a puddle and sees an image of her Emaye smiling:

The water has connected my two worlds, and I know who I am.”

At the end of the story, an author’s note explains that in Ethiopia, 65 percent of the population lives without access to clean, safe drinking water. In many places, women and girls travel miles each way to retrieve water from dirty and contaminated watering holes. The author provides websites for interested readers to learn more about the problems of dirty drinking water, and how to help.

Gathering water in Ethiopia (from website water.org)

Gathering water in Ethiopia (from website water.org)

Discussion: The author herself adopted a girl from Ethiopia, and she has traveled back to Ethiopia several times to see the mother and give her news of her daughter (also named Eva). But in the book, we don’t know if Eva ever sees her mother again, or even what becomes of her mother. In fact, we only assume that Eva was taken to an adoption agency in the first place; it isn’t actually mentioned in the book. In addition, the author never explains why there is no choice but for the mother to send Eva away, or how Eva feels about it. And while Eva does think about her mother here and there, she adjusts amazingly quickly and well to her new life. I would definitely want to know what happens to the mother, who is portrayed so sympathetically but is then summarily dismissed in favor of showing all the riches of Eva’s new life.

The oils by Eric Velasquez are soft and lush, skillfully employing selective colors to convey the parched landscape of Ethiopia versus the greens and blues of the girl’s new home in America.

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Evaluation: As long as an adult is available to fill in the gaps in the story, this book could be soothing to children who have had to leave their original homes. It also alerts kids in the U.S. that not all countries are as blessed in even the basics, like food and water.

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Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014

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3 Responses

  1. I like the idea of teaching kids that water is not readily available everywhere but I’m not sure I like the way the adoption is told. Also, why would you change a child’s name when you adopt them?

  2. I have a friend who is in the process of adopting a sister and brother from the Congo (they fly over to meet them for the first time this month)
    and this might be a good book to include in a welcome package.
    As for renaming them, my friend has their American names picked out but she is trying to decide how much of their current name to include. The names she chose do have meaning in their language so I think she is trying to be mindful and yet wants them to feel a part of their American family (they will be joining 2 big brothers).

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