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The Color of My Words

Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.

What 12-year-old Ana Rosa Hèrnandez wants more than anything is a notepad of her very own. Writing is her passion, and words flow out of her pencil onto the paper bags that Papi brings his rum home in, onto napkins, onto gray shop paper. In the República Dominicana, however, only the President can write books. But as Mami sighs and says, “Ana Rosa, there always has to be a first person to do something.” These supportive words are difficult for her mother to muster, as everyone on the island knows too well that writers do not have freedom of expression–and in their political climate “silence was self-defense.”

When the chilling news arrives that the government wants to buy all the land in the village to build hotels and generate more tourism, people learn what it means to break their silence. Ana Rosa’s handsome 19-year-old brother Guario Hèrnandez is appointed as official spokesperson for the villagers’ cause, but when an out-and-out rebellion against the government erupts, he–and everyone else–is endangered. As the bulldozers roll in, Ana Rosa and her family discover how utterly worthless words really are in the face of brute force.

Lynn Joseph paints a vibrant, colorful landscape of this Caribbean island where love, warmth of community, and abundant natural beauty soften the kind of poverty that makes paper–and sometimes doing what you think is right–a luxury. Ana Rosa’s engaging, heartfelt poems–“Merengue Dream,” “My Brother’s Friend”–begin every chapter, setting the tone of the events to follow, and reinforcing how words shape her life and how her life shapes her words. Young readers will be inspired by Ana Rosa’s drive and talent, warmed by vivid stories of her close-knit family, and moved by those who fight for what’s right at the greatest possible cost. This lovely, lyrical book dances the merengue, glimmers with sunshine, and sways with island breezes. (Ages 10 and older) –Karin Snelson
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