Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Other Half of Happy

Balcárcel, Rebecca. The Other Half of Happy
August 20th 2019 by Chronicle
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Quijana's father is from Guatemala, and he is very proud of his cultural heritage, although he has never spoken Spanish with his daughter. Her mother is not Latinx, and Quijana identifies more as "American", causing some of her Latinx classmates to refer to her as a coconut. She has a hard time starting middle school, but makes fast friends with Jayden (on whom she has a crush) and Zuri, which makes things easier. Some of her relatives relocate to her area in Texas from Guatemala, and she is apprehensive about meeting her cousins. She also doesn't want to travel to see her abuela, since she doesn't speak Spanish, and the idea of visiting a foreign country doesn't appeal to her. She is very fond of her grandmother Miller who lives in Florida, and is very worried because she is ill. Instead of flying to Guatemala with her family, Quijana makes a plan to buy a bus ticket to Florida, selling the huipil her abuela sent her in order to get the money. In the meantime, there are many problems with her three year old brother, Memito, who is uncommunicative and easily upset by light, sound, and touch. Quijana starts to play her father's guitar, but when he finds out, he tries to control what she plays and how she plays, which leads to an argument between the two that culminates in Quijana breaking the guitar. With so much tension and bad things happening, will Quijana be able to make things right with her family?
Strengths: This has some similarities to Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, in that Quijana has to deal with people thinking she is Guatemalan when she herself feels "American". (I dislike this term, since people from South and Central America are also "American", but "from the US" is not quite the phrase, either.) The inclusion of the culture adds to her character but isn't the focus of the book. Her friendships at school are well portrayed, and I like the description of her efforts to run away. (But glad they don't work out!) The death of a grandparent is a fairly common middle school experience. This was a well-paced, enjoyable book to read.
Weaknesses: Having the grandmother's illness and the brother's problems diluted both of them; I would have rather had just one, and spent more time discussing her cousins and how the families worked together. (But then, I have 38 cousins on my mother's side!)
What I really think: While I enjoyed this, I'm not sure how well it would do in my library; the cover is not appealing. I will probably purchase, but may wait until my February order.

Game time! Finally, all of the students, so we bring out the jackets! The unicorn pin was a birthday present.

I also made a song for the first three days of classes, to start off orientation sessions. It is to be sung to the OSU fight song tune (which coincidentally, was my high school fight song)

Read, read, oh read a book,
Read a new one every day!
And, when you finish one
check out a new one right away!
Hey, hey, hey!
Visit the library, where we always know the score:
If you read, you'll succeed, you will conquer, you'll lead
so read some more!
Read books!

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