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Lena is nine years old and her sister Dion is four when their mother dies in West Virginia. After a while, the girls stop waiting for Mama to come back and eventually settle in Chauncey, Ohio with their father. Often their father just stares at the wall, then smiles at Lena. "Only it was the smile he used to give Mama. Not a daddy-to-daughter smile. He wanted me to be Mama, but I'm not. I'm Lena."

Disguising themselves as boys, Lena and Dion finally leave their father and head out on the open road to Pine Mountain, Kentucky, where Lena hopes they can hook up with some of Mama's people. It's scary on the road, hitching rides and sleeping outside or in hospital waiting rooms, but it's better than being scared of Daddy.

It's late December, and traveling time is dreaming time. The sisters plan what they'll do when they grow up, but for now, Lena dreams of lots of food, presents, and music; Dion wants a grand piano, snow on Christmas morning, and hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Might these wishes come true when Lena and Dion accept a ride from Miss Lily Price, a black woman who takes the girls home with her? Have Lena and Dion finally found the home they so desperately need and want? Can they really trust Lily Price, or are they setting themselves up to be hurt again? Lena knows there's no room for even one mistake.

LENA, by Jacqueline Woodson, is the story of a gutsy girl who takes charge. Lena manages to escape her father and save herself and her younger sister from his abuse, as she faces issues that should not be in a child's life but often are. It is a story of growing up, facing fear with bravery, having tenderness for one another, and learning to trust.

Reviewed by Audrey Marie Danielson on August 8, 2000

by Jacqueline Woodson

  • Publication Date: August 8, 2000
  • Paperback: 115 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf
  • ISBN-10: 0440226694
  • ISBN-13: 9780440226697