THE ROAD TO PARIS by Nikki Grimes

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Paris and her brother, Malcolm, have lived in more foster homes than they can count since Child Protective Services took them away from their mother.  In Paris’ opinion, most of the foster homes were even worse than their real home despite their mother’s drinking and their abusive stepfather.  But when they finally run away to their grandmother’s house, their case worker decides to separate the children, putting Malcolm in a group home for boys his age and sending Paris to live with a new foster family, the Lincolns.  Heartbroken at being separated from her brother, Paris doesn’t think she will ever be happy with the Lincolns, but she is surprised to discover that family life isn’t always as dysfunctional as her past experiences have been.  As Paris begins to find her place in her new home, she still must overcome her nightmares of the past and the prejudice of some other community members who do not understand her.

This Coretta Scott King Award Honor book provides a glimpse of a loving, functional foster family without glossing over the difficulties and complications of this type of family situation.  The Lincolns must work hard to earn Paris’ trust, as do the children at her new school.  And when that trust is broken, it is difficult for Paris to open up again.  There are some intense themes in this book, including physical and emotional abuse and racism.  I would recommend this book to middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction.

For another book that depicts a positive (though challenging) foster family situation, try Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue.

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