Cover image for Take me with you
Take me with you
1st ed.
Publication Information:
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2010.
Physical Description:
160, [5] p. ; 19 cm.
Reading Level:
640 L Lexile
Raised in an Italian orphanage in the years following World War II, a biracial girl named Susanna and her best friend Pina want to be adopted but fear being separated.


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Hopes of adoption test the friendship of two girls-one biracial-in a lyrical novel touching on themes of identity and the meaning of home.

Pina and Susanna. Susanna and Pina. For as long as they've lived at the Istituto di Gesù Bambino -- a home for babies abandoned after the War -- they have been best friends. As children, they played rag dolls under the watchful eyes of the nuns and hide-and-seek among the lemon trees on the rooftop terrazzo overlooking Naples. But now strangers are coming to the chiesa, couples hoping to adopt children. Susanna thinks Pina -- pale, pretty Pina with her gleaming yellow braid -- will be adopted at once. Susanna, on the other hand, is a mulatta. Her father was an American soldier, a nero. No Italian has hair or skin like hers. But when a surprise visitor comes to the istituto just to see Susanna, will the friends be separated after all? Or will a miracle make both of their dreams come true?

Author Notes

Carolyn Marsden is the acclaimed author of many novels for young readers. She has a master of fine arts in writing for children from Vermont College and lives in La Jolla, California.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Marsden (The Gold-Threaded Dress) again deftly weaves a multicultural thread into her fiction. A decade after the end of WWII, best friends Susanna and Pina are being raised by nuns in a Naples home for girls who were abandoned as babies. Convinced that their parents must be dead since they haven't come for them, the girls long to be adopted, but prospective parents haven't selected either of them. Golden-haired Pina thinks her mischievous behavior is the problem, while Susanna believes her dark skin is to blame. Though each discovers she has a birth parent alive, the author realistically steers clear of a pat, feel-good resolution. After a letter arrives from her father, an American sailor who's on a tour of duty, Susanna plaintively wonders, "Why would a father not drop everything to hurry to his daughter?" Pina holds out hope when she learns that her mother lives nearby yet can't care for her and has withheld permission for her daughter to be adopted ("I belong to someone. Someday my mother will come"). It's a poignant novel, enriched by expressive writing and credible characters. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Pina and Susanna, eleven, both live in a home for abandoned children outside of Naples. Biracial Susanna is sure that beautiful blond Pina will be adopted first. When Susanna's birth father appears unexpectedly, the girls' friendship is tested. Marsden's incisive prose spares no emotional moment; alternating points of view allow each girl's experience equal time in this moving story. Glos. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Marsden, who has written about children in Asia and Africa, now goes somewhere different, both in place and time: Italy after World War II. Pina and Susanna have lived at their Naples orphanage since they were babies. Best friends, they tolerate the nuns, find pleasure where they can, and hope fervently that one day they'll be adopted into loving families. Pina, pretty and blond, should have been adopted long ago. She is sure the nuns tell prospective parents she is bad. Susanna has her own challenge. She is the daughter of an Italian woman and a black American sailor, a nero; no one looks like her. Then two very different parents come into the girls' lives. One appears, the other is found, and both satisfy the girls' dreams in unexpected ways. Marsden often puts crafts like sewing or crocheting into her stories, and in many respects she is like a master craftsman, using words instead of stitches for her deceptively simple design. The embellishments come in the details of life in the orphanage, on the street, and with the particulars of religious life. There is even a touch of mysticism when the orphans attend a mass conducted by the sainted Padre Pio. Perhaps it is he who performs Pina's miracle; in any case his well-known philosophic statement beautifully sums up this book: Pray, hope, and don't worry. --Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-In this post-World War II novel set in Italy, Susanna and Pina, both 11, have lived at a Catholic orphanage since they were infants. Although the girls consider themselves sorelle (sisters), they still long to be part of a family. Susanna, a mixed-race girl, is sure that high-spirited Pina will be adopted quickly because of her golden beauty, and she is keenly aware that she is unlikely to be chosen. Both girls are shocked to discover that each of them has a living parent. Susanna receives a letter from a black American sailor who suspects he's her father. There are hints that her mother was a prostitute. After a few awkward meetings, she begins to warm up to this earnest man who is determined to bring her up in the U.S. Pina discovers that her mother lives nearby and although she has never visited, she has not relinquished her parental rights. Pina makes a couple of desperate visits to her, but is repeatedly rebuffed. Her mother explains, "I was too young.only sixteen," and she is afraid to reveal her daughter's existence to her husband. After a series of heartrending encounters, she finally frees the girl for adoption. Marsden does an excellent job of creating an unsentimental picture of institutional life where affection from adults is rare, and luxuries even rarer. She unflinchingly presents painful experiences that some adoptees face, such as abandonment, racism, and rejection. Although the ending is ambiguous, it hints that both girls will join loving families. This compelling story will likely appeal to a broad audience.-Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Braintree, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

An orphanage for abandoned girls in Naples after World War II is the setting for this tale of two girls, now about 11, who have been there since they were babies. Susanna's father was an American nero, a black man; Pinashort for Giuseppinahas golden curls and rosy skin and a mother who has left her at the istituto but will not let her be adopted. Every Sunday after Mass couples visit the istituto to look over prospective daughters, and each week Susanna and Pina are left behind. The longing for parental affection, while the obvious theme, is still curiously at a remove from readers, even as Susanna tries to find a response to the tall, gentle black American sailor who is her father, and Pina tries to track down her mother in the slums of the city. There's too much telling and not enough showing, despite alternating chapters that follow each girl in the third person, and a lot of clicha severe old nun and a kind postulant, for example. Despite the intriguing concept, this effort falls flat. (Italian glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.