The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
Alda P. Dobbs
Published September 14, 2021
About The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left―her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito―until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none.
Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: “They’re like us barefoot peasants and indios―they’re not meant to go far.” But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border―a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.
I read this book in one sitting, both because it’s a pretty easy read, but also because I couldn’t stop. Petra is bright and full of curiosity and determination to keep the promise she made to her father to care for her family. She makes sure they stay together, helps them when they’re weak, and stays focused on what matters, no matter what comes across her path. Her relationship with her grandmother is complex– there are levels where they just don’t get each other, and others where they deeply connect. I loved that.
The descriptions of the places Petra travels are vivid and gripping. I felt like I could almost taste and smell the food sometimes. And the hot dry desert and its affect on them as they traveled felt so real.
Though there’s some violence, it mostly happens off-scene, with some one-line references to what’s happened. In the author’s note, the author talks about how she learned about these events from her own family’s history rather than at any point in school. I didn’t learn about these events in school either, so I was really moved by the history in which THE BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA takes place. It made me want to learn a lot more about Mexican history.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. The characters really resonated with me, especially Petra and Marietta, a captain in the rebel forces. I think readers who enjoy historical fiction or stories about strong female heroes will love this book.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Major characters are Mexican.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Petra and her family seek refuge in a church. Petra’s grandmother has taken them to mass only rarely.
Soldiers force boys and men to join their ranks, executing them by firing squad if they refuse. (That’s referenced, but not explicitly shown.) Soldiers tear apart Petra’s home looking for her cousin. They burn the village, and Petra and her family flee. They threaten to kill civilians.
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