Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Wish Upon a Stray

Méndez, Yamile Saied. Wish Upon a Stray
August 3rd 2021 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

María Emilia enjoys her life in Mendoza, Argentina, hanging out and taking an after school English course with her cousin Violeta, playing with her cat, Estrellita, and talking to her beloved grandmother, Lela. When her mother gets a job teaching Latin American history at a university in Utah, the family must relocate. Estrellita is left behind, and her grandmother gives her a binder of letters written by her own mother, Celestina, when her family moved from Italy to Argentina. The process of coming to the US isn't as difficult as Celestina's (although her luggage gets lost), especially since María Emilia has a US passport, since she was born in the country when her parents were visiting. Utah is very different, and María Emilia must get used to a new house, neighbors, and not being able to walk as many places. She is put into an English Language Learner class at school, even though her English is quite good. There are some people who are mean to her because of her background, but she does make a few new friends, especially Tirzah, whose grandmother immigrated to the US and who has always tried to help others with the transition. María Emilia misses her cat dreadfully, so when she finds a lost dog, she takes her in and names her Estrellita as well. The dog ends up belonging to a classmate, Donovan, who has named the dog Cookie. The two come to an agreement about the dog, and María Emilia also is invited to sing in a band. While life in the US isn't the same, María Emilia slowly becomes more accustomed to it. 
Strengths: I have a lot of students who come from other countries, and many times they are quite homesick! It's a lot more common to have stories of second generation immigrants in middle grade stories, so it was interesting to see the procedures involved in coming to the US, and to see María Emilia's struggles with school and a new way of life. The end notes indicate that this is somewhat autobiographical, which would explain why the details are so good. I very much appreciated that while María Emilia is sad about some things, she also tries to make the best of her new life. 
Weaknesses: Judging from the cover and title, I thought this would be much more centered on the dog, much like this author's Random Acts of Kittens
What I really think: The WISH novels are hugely popular in my library, but this book doesn't quite fit into the mold of that series. I still think it will be very popular, though! Readers who enjoyed Weeks and Varadarajan's Save Me a Seat, Faruqi's Unsettled, and Dumas' It Ain't So Awful, Falafel will enjoy this look at what it's like to not only move to a new house, but to move from a completely different country. 

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