Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Merci Suárez is a sixth grader at Seaward Pines Academy. She attempts to navigate the social scene at a private school while her brother Roli and her are there on a scholarship. Roli and her live in one of their three family houses which they loving named Las Casitas. Merci is given a ‘Sunshine Buddy’ to show around Seaward Pines, but queen bee Edna Santos does not make this task or any task easy for her. While at home, Merci watches as Lolo, her abuelo, is not acting himself. This coming of age novel touches on mental illness in adults and how children cope when a beloved family member in their lives slowly starts to slip away. Merci Suárez Changes Gears has a strong female protagonist of color. Merci is Cuban and her family lives in Miami, Florida.
Meg Medina writes this book as a modern novel in the present time and each of her characters has a cell phone. They communicate by texting at times and there is a reference in the book to using Google to find an answer. Merci Suárez Changes Gears won a Newbery in 2019. It is included on the 2019 list for ProjectLIT books.
Medina, M. (2018). Merci Suárez Changes Gears. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Other Words for Home
The book Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga, is a fiction novel, written in verse form, documenting the journey of Jude and her mother as they leave their homeland of Syria to live with relatives in Cincinnati. This story is told in first person as Jude documents her life in Syria, her journey to America, and her life in an American school. Each day is a new emotion and a new experience, from her ESL class to her math class that she understands if there are more numbers than words.
The verse form in this book is written with complete sentences and does not rhyme. The sentences are broken up into several lines to place emphasis on particular words and deliberate phrases to emphasis the thoughts and experiences of Jude. It is easy to follow and can be read as a poem or as a novel to encapsulate a variety of readers.
Warga, J. (2019). Other Words for Home. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Front Desk, by Kelly Yang, is based off her experiences of working the front desk of a motel that her parents managed in California in the early 1990’s. Mia Tang’s family moved from China seeking a better life in America. She attended school by day and after-school she worked the front desk of the Calivista Motel while her parents cleaned the rooms and managed everything else. Mia’s best friend from school is Lupe whose father works for the cable company. At school, Mia is bullied by Jason, the son of Mr. Yao who happens to be the owner of the Calivista Motel. Through it all, she doesn’t give up hope. Her optimism and tenacity is contagious. Her parents might think that hard work is what it takes to make it in America, but Mia thinks they need to own a hotel of their own.
This book has several intertwined plots working together to complete this novel. Each person Mia meets becomes her friend and each friend has a story to be told and a problem to be solved. Mia wants to be a writer and she writes her way out of everything and into anything throughout the story.
Yang, K. (2018). Front Desk. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
All three of these books have main characters of color and are part of 2019 Project LIT book list.