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Becoming Naomi Leon Paperback – October 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw lives with younger brother Owen and her fiercely practical Gram in a trailer park in California in this novel by Pam Munoz (Scholastic, 2004). An unpopular fifth grader, she spends lots of time in the library with the other outcasts and the kind librarian. Naomi's talent is carving objects out of soap. After being gone for seven years, her mother shows up one day with a scary boyfriend, Clive. Gram lets the children know that their mother, Terri Lynn, has always been wild and irresponsible. They're worried that she will assert her parental rights and take the children away. Naomi is insecure and particularly susceptible to her mother's attention. Owen is essentially ignored by Terri Lynn because he has some physical deformities, but Clive thinks he could use Owen's deformities to make money gambling. Gram, the neighbors, and the children go to Oaxaca to find the children's father and get him to sign papers making Gram their guardian. Their dad is thrilled to see them, and Naomi learns that her talent for soap carving is inherited from her father. This deeply moving story is expressively and sympathetically narrated by Annie Kozuch. Characterization is excellent and listeners will be happy that Naomi finds confidence, love, and security. A good choice for most collections.–B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. Half-Mexican Naomi Soledad, 11, and her younger disabled brother, Owen, have been brought up by their tough, loving great-grandmother in a California trailer park, and they feel at home in the multiracial community. Then their alcoholic mom reappears after seven years with her slimy boyfriend, hoping to take Naomi (not Owen) back and collect the welfare check. Determined not to let that happen, Gram drives the trailer across the border to a barrio in Oaxaca to search for the children's dad at the city's annual Christmas arts festival. In true mythic tradition, Ryan, the author of the award-winning Esperanza Rising (2000), makes Naomi's search for her dad a search for identity, and both are exciting. Mom is demonized, but the other characters are more complex, and the quest is heartbreaking. The dense factual detail about the festival sometimes slows the story, but it's an effective tool for dramatizing Naomi's discovery of her Mexican roots and the artist inside herself. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439269970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439269971
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PAM Muñoz Ryan is the author of more that thirty books for young readers, including four beloved novels, Riding Freedom, Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, and Paint the Wind, which collectively have garnered, among countless accolades, the Pura Belpré Medal, the Jane Addams Award, and the Schneider Family Award. She lives in Southern California with her family. You can visit her at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Becoming Naomi Leon is one of the best children's books that I have read in many years. It is the touching story of a bi-cultural brother and sister abandoned by thier mother and living in their Grandmother's trailer named Baby Beluga in Lemon Tree, California. Naomi is a shy, quiet girl who carves soap into animals and makes lists. Owen is an FLK (Funny Looking Kid) who dreams of bicycles and wears tape on his clothes for comfort. Grandma is a fiesty, postive thinking, loving woman who tries her best to expose the children to their Mexican culture. They live in relative happiness until one day, their mother shows up. She devotes her time and gifts to Naomi, ignoring Owen in spite of his obvious desire to have her love.

As Naomi's mother spends more time in Lemon Tree, her motives for coming to see her children become threatening and Grandma and the wonderful Mexican neighbors band together to protect the children.

Becoming Naomi Leon is eloquent and moving story of an extended family, a mother that is a danger to her children, a hunt for a father that takes you to Oaxaca and the beauty there. It is simple and elegant; painful and sweet. This book will touch your heart and show you love in it's purest form.

Pam Munoz Ryan has written an ageless and beautiful story that will stay with me for a very long time.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Esperanza Rising" was okay. It wasn't the best book I'd ever read, nor did it leave an indelible mark on my heart and mind. After reading it through I felt that author Pam Munoz Ryan was a fine n' dandy writer, but that it was probably unlikely that she'd produce a book that would really make me sit up and take notice. When I start reading a children's book with a mild prejudice already established in my mind (as there was when I picked up "Becoming Naomi Leon") it takes remarkably good writing to bash that prejudice into soft mushy pulp. And bash this book did. By its end I was flabbergasted. I went into this novel with the vague dread that it would read like so many other works of fiction that are ostensibly "good" for children. I worried that it would be beautifully written and dull as day old dishwater. Instead, it was interesting, bright, cheery, but with just enough reality and cynicism to make you feel that Naomi's fight was one worth battling out. In short, I've been completely seduced by "Becoming Naomi Leon". It is perhaps the underrated children's novel of 2004. Hands down.

Naomi begins her book with the chilling statement that she can now point out the exact moment that her sense of peace and security began to unravel like those cartoons where a dog wearing a sweater gets a string from his shirt caught in some way. "Pretty soon the poor dog is bare to its skin, shivering, and all that had kept it warm is nothing more than a bedraggled string". And it all began the night her mother came to town. Naomi had been living a nice quiet life with her great-grandmother (or just Gram, as she calls her) and her little brother Owen. Owen has a slight birth defect that affects his neck and voice, but otherwise he's pretty much a certified genius.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Ernst on September 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Becoming Naomi León, Pam Muñoz Ryan treats readers to another beautifully written novel. Naomi León Soledad Outlaw is a shy and extremely quiet young girl, living in the suburbs of San Diego, California with her great-grandmother and her younger brother, Owen. When Naomi and Owen's mother comes back into the picture, she brings excitement, chaos and uncertainty. What follows is a suspenseful, sad and humorous journey as Naomi has to discover who she is and where she has comes from.

Having read Ryan's Esperanza Rising, I was expecting a similar novel, but was pleasantly surprised by the change in tone, pace and characters. Owen is my favorite character, optimistic to the end with his FLK (Funny Looking Kid) label and his protective tape habits. Naomi is a character readers can truly empathize with and rejoice in her simple joys. And more than one of us could relate to her obsessive list making. The situations in this book are all too familiar in real life, but Ryan gives readers hope with a "fairy tale" ending, so to speak. A good novel to start discussion, Becoming Naomi León is well worth it and has become one of my favorite children's novels.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on April 12, 2005
Format: Audio Cassette
This story is so fine. Naomi and her brother Owen are happy and well adjusted children being raised by their grandmother. Naomi loves carving animals out of soap. Her brother Owen is a brain.

Like all children she is curious about her parents who are not part of her life. One day the children's mother, "Call me Skyla," appears and lavishes attention on Naomi. Skyla barely hides her revulsion over Owen's physical problems resulting from birth defects and does not appreciate his keen and sharp mind. Gram's misgivings are confirmed when Skyla announces she wants to take Naomi to live with her and her boyfriend in Las Vegas. Naomi realizes that she is only wanted for support money and to be a babysitter for the boyfriend's daughter. Her hopes for a happy ending with a loving mother are dashed. To find help for the upcoming custody battle, Gram takes the children to Mexico in hopes of finding the children's father.

This story line seems dreary and tragic but the the characters are so tenderly and finely drawn that we cheer their strength and courage. Naomi comes to know herself and finds her gift as a carver at the Christmas festival in Oaxaca. The reader cares deeply about this family and is thankful to Pam Munoz Ryan who created them. If you enjoyed "Esperanza Rising," you will love "Becoming Naomi Leon."
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