Finding the magic within
Before Naomi went on a quest to Mexico to find her father, she was a quiet girl, always speaking in a barely audible whisper. When she returns, she has found her voice, defended herself in court and grown into her name: Leâ€”n, or lion. When the story opens and closes, Naomi and her brother Owen are living with their great-grandmother, Gram, in an Airstream trailer nicknamed Baby Beluga at Avocado Acres in Lemon Tree, California, but in the middle of it all she has experiences to change her life. When Naomi's mother comes back into her life with a new tattooed, ponytailed, hard-drinking boyfriend, Clive, she sets in motion a chain of events that sends Naomi off to Oaxaca, Mexico. Naomi wakes up one day, fearing that her trailer is being buffeted by a hurricane; instead, she finds that Gram, with friends Fabiola and Bernardo, is hurtling Baby Beluga down the highway toward the Mexican border. I always said you and Owen should know your Mexican history, Gram says. Naomi's father, a Mexican fisherman and carver, is expected to show up at La Noche de los Râ€¡banos, where he annually displays his expert carvings. Recognizing her mother's craziness, Naomi hopes to reunite with her father, who has been little more than a mystery, a blank space and a longing in her life. Naomi comes to realize that she is much like her father. She looks like him, she carves beautifully like him, and she misses the wholeness of a family with him. And though the story is too well written to have a happily-ever-after ending, Naomi does return to Avocado Acres more sure of herself and her place in the world. As her beloved teacher Mr. Marble tells her, You are a girl of great talent and many layers. . . . Before you were a mouse, but now you have the countenance of a lioness. This is a heartwarming, inspiring story of a young girl's coming of age, an older woman's finding the strength to do what she must, and a family coming into its own. Like one of her carvings, Naomi has found the magic within.