Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

Written by Alda P. Dobbs
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

1913 Mexico. Petra Luna’s mother died in childbirth. Her father was forced to either join the Federales, the government army of tyrant Victoriano Huerta, or be executed in front of his family. When soldiers burn her village and home, twelve-year-old Petra Luna must lead her grandmother and two young siblings to safety. But is anywhere safe? Walking barefoot through the desert, they find temporary safety in a church and, later, with a rebel army led by a female soldier. Petra considers joining the rebels, but who would care for her family? Would it be better to continue north and hope that the United States will be safe? Will it be a place where she could finally go to school and learn to read?

Based on events from the author’s great-grandmother’s life, this is an excellent story of the Mexican Revolution. The focus is less on the political situation and more on the effects of war on the poor. Dobbs brings not only the time but the place to life. The Lunas are able to survive in the desert because of Abuelita’s knowledge of the land she loves. Petra Luna is a wonderfully strong and compassionate character. Readers will empathize with her challenges and understand her dreams. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text in a way that makes their meaning clear. End material explains the author’s inspiration for the story, and a timeline outlines major events in the revolution. Highly recommended. Ages 8 and up.