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Star in the Forest introduces young readers to immigration

March 25, 2010

Star in the Forest
Delacorte Press, 2010
written by Laura Resau
Jr. fiction (grades 3 – 6)

Star in the Forest by Fort Collins author, Laura, Resau, brings you into Zitlally’s Colorado world, her mobile home park near a forest of very “old car parts, heaps of rusted metal, spotted orangey brown, with rainbow layers of fading paint, and leaves and vines poking and twisting through the holes.”

After her father is deported to Mexico, Zitlally, whose name means Star, escapes into the forest and discovers a skinny, dirty dog chained tightly to the hood of a car. He earns his name, Star, after Zitlally notices a star-shaped black patch of fur shaped on his neck.

Each day after school, Zitlally visits Star and feeds him what she can forage from home – birthday cake, even Cheerios. Not only does her friendship with the dog grow, so does one with her neighbor, Crystal who “everyone knew not to believe . . .” even though “most of her lies were just good stories.” Meanwhile, Zitlally’s mom raises money for her papá to return home.

But, when Zitlally’s father is kidnapped by his border “guides” and Star disappears from the forest, Zitlally and Crystal realize that Star is papá’s spirit animal– “People used to have special animals. When a baby was born, they’d figure out what its special animals was. And if something happened to the animal, like it got shot, then the person would get hurt, too,” Zitlally tells Crystal.

Now the girls must find and save Star in order to bring back Zitlally’s father.

Star in the Forest is a good introduction to the situation of Mexican children illegally in the U.S., who are fearful and sometimes separated from their family members. We learn that friendship comes from the most unlikely of friends, even someone like Crystal who despite her lies, is a loyal friend. And, we find that Zitlally’s love for her father helps her do courageous things.

I strongly suggest that parents to read this book with their child or choose it for a parent-child book club (see March ’10 article) because there is so much to discuss.

Book Extensions:

Read Eve Bunting’s book, A Day’s Work about a day laborer from Mexico and his grandson.

Discussion Ideas for Young Readers: Immigration means moving to another country. What if your parents decided to immigrate to another country? How would you feel? How did Zitlally feel when her parents took her to the United States from Mexico?  Find out if your ancestors immigrated to the United States and from where.  Make your own family tree.

WIN a copy of Star in the Forest! E-mail your name to with “Star in the Forest” in the subject line. We will randomly select one lucky winner to receive a copy of the book. Deadline for entry is midnight MST on April 6, 2010.


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