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A PORTRAIT OF PIA by Marisabina Russo


by Marisabina Russo

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: June 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-15-205577-6
Publisher: Harcourt

Russo pens a thoughtful story of a family’s troubles and triumphs. While seventh-grader Pia’s cliquish classmates and self-absorbed worries seem like genre clichés at first, they yield to real depth. Pia’s older brother’s mental illness caused him to drop out of Harvard. Although Mario shares an apartment, Pia’s single mom is preoccupied with his care. Pia, “lonely in her own family,” secretly contacts her father in Italy—whom she has never met—engendering a pivotal trip to Rome and Florence with her mother. Russo skillfully renders the artistic Pia’s realizations: that her father, though entirely different from her naïve expectations, might make a place for her in his life; that steady Greg, Mom’s new boyfriend, seems ready to embrace their challenging family; and that Mario, who suffers another breakdown, has the continuing capacity for both love and healing. Other characters, such as the enigmatic teen Dahlia, populate a New York scene in which artists are respected community members. While missing a few dramatic opportunities by recounting action that’s already occurred, this sensitively showcases the anguish of siblings of the mentally ill. (Fiction. 10-14)