The Road to Paris

The Road to ParisThe Road to Paris is a picture of a short period in the life of nine year old Paris, a girl in foster care. She’s been in some really horrible situations, but now she’s with the Lincolns in a more stable and loving home, learning who she is, how to cope, and what she wants from life.

The novel is almost completely about relationships. Paris learns how to deal with her new foster family which includes a strict mother, a funny father, two brothers, and an older girl who has been with the Lincolns for years. She also comes to terms with being separated from her own brother who has always looked out for her. She navigates new friendships and the racism of their families. She finds strength and comfort in God. Then her biological mother, promising that she’s turned things around, asks Paris to come back home. The book is heartbreaking and hopeful in its portrayals.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Paris was beaten by her mother’s partner and by several foster parents. She’s afraid of the dark after having been locked in a closet all day where roaches crawled over her and she peed her pants because she couldn’t help it. Her life has been really rough up until the point where we meet her.


Paris’ mother is an alcoholic, which is a big part of why she was an unfit mother. When the Lincolns have beer with dinner, Paris freaks out a bit. She dumps out all of the remaining beer, certain that alcohol always causes problems. Nothing bad comes from the beer the Lincolns drank, and the other foster girl tells Paris that throwing out the alcohol never helps anyway.


Paris’ father was white and embarrassed by his black child who he wanted nothing to do with. Paris makes friends with Ashley, a white girl, but when Paris goes to visit her, Ashley’s father yells a lot and calls Paris the N word. It seems clear that Ashley and her mother are scared of her father. Ashley won’t dare be friends with Paris anymore after that incident. Mrs. Lincoln says that there are hateful people in the world, and some of them are white. We should judge people by their actions and not their skin color. Paris is nervous to make friends with another white girl, but eventually she does and learns that Sienna’s family is much more accepting.


When Paris and her older brother Malcolm ran away from their abusive foster home, they went to their grandmother. However, she says she can’t take them—she’s already raised her kids—and calls Child Protective Services. Malcolm gets sent to a children’s home because he stole money from their previous foster family so he and Paris could run away from the abusive situation. Paris is devastated by being separated from her brother. Paris goes to visit him and he’s much harder than he used to be—but he says that God answered his prayers because Paris is being taken care of. There’s no talk of him coming back with her when she goes to live with her birthmother again, though. Reading between the lines, it feels like Malcolm might be a lost case at the tender age of ten or so.

The Lincolns immediately call their foster children part of the family, no matter how long or short they’ll be there. Mrs. Lincoln is pretty strict, but loving. When Paris, after having a flashback to being locked in the closet, hides that she wet her bed, Mrs. Lincoln is matter of fact about it. She cleans things up and then shows Paris how to change her own sheets next time, then gets Paris a night light so she won’t be so scared at night. When Paris realizes that Mrs. Lincoln has a phobia about snakes, Paris loves her a little more because of this chink in her armor. The Lincoln boys tease Paris a bit, but they’re good natured unlike the kids in other foster homes. They accept her as part of the family, which makes her feel good. Eventually she counts them as friends. The older foster girl isn’t quite so accepting, but she comes around eventually.

The word “Mom” doesn’t seem to mean much to Paris—she quickly uses it to refer to Mrs. Lincoln. Paris is really conflicted about her birthmother. Her mother created the horrible situations that Paris and Malcolm find themselves in, but eventually Paris starts to remember some of the good times, too. She realizes her love of music comes from her birthmother. At the end, she does go home to her mother, feeling love and strength from her time with the Lincolns.

Most fathers are ghosts, not really there. Mr. Lincoln is an interesting exception to this.

Lies and Punishment

Paris has certainly been less than honest plenty of times, but it’s clearly a survival mechanism. She’s used to other kids telling lies to get her in trouble, which makes her furious. She’s not upset about being punished, though, as long as it’s fair and dealt out to people equitably.

When Paris goes to the required psychologist appointment, she outright lies, feeling that the appointment is useless anyway. Mrs. Lincoln figures this out and is amused rather than angry or disappointed—she’s had other foster kids do the same thing.


David, her foster brother, tells her that he overcame his fear of the dark by keeping God in his pocket—it’s easier to be brave when you keep God close to you. The Lincolns regularly attend church, and Paris is welcome to join them when she’s ready (there’s no requirement or pressure—it’s up to her when/if she wants to go with them). When she does decide to go, the hymns really speak to her. She finds joy and strength in music. She gets a solo in the choir, too—her foster brothers say she’s so good at singing because it runs in their family, which makes her feel good.

Faith in God is strong in many of the characters. Paris carries her renewed faith with her as she goes back to her birthmother to see if they can make a go of things this time.


This is one of those books that makes you worry that it’s going to get exciting, because excitement will almost certainly mean bad things for Paris. But it’s a story of several months that probably turned her whole life around and the people who helped her find strength in herself and in God that will make a real change for her. It’s mostly a series of vignettes that show how Paris is growing up and dealing with the tough issues in her life.

Foster families are so frequently shown in a negative light in fiction. While there have been awful foster families in Paris’ past, The Road to Paris celebrates the incredible difference that a loving foster family can have.

It’s a good book for thoughtful reluctant readers—it’s not very long, but there are a lot of issues brought up. It’s likely to encourage questions about how realistic it is, so be ready for those. I’d recommend it for 9 or 10 and up.


The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes
Published in 2006 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Borrowed from our local library

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