I Wanna Be Your Shoebox
One features a nice girl, the other a bad girl, but they both make music.
García's (Dreaming in Cuban ) exceptional ability to channel a range of voices lights up her first children's novel, about an eighth-grader in Southern California. Yumi Ruíz-Hirsch comes from a colorful family—her long-divorced mom is Cuban, “with a little Guatemalan thrown in,” and a reasonably successful novelist; her dad, a struggling songwriter, is the oldest member of a punk-rock band—and Yumi adores her grandparents, Saul (Jewish, from Brooklyn) and Hiroko (from Japan). Suddenly loss is imminent for Yumi: 92-year-old Saul is diagnosed with cancer; her school is planning to cut the orchestra, and Yumi plays the clarinet; and then her mother decides to marry and move with her to Napa. The large personalities propel the story and bring tenderness and credibility to a classic message about change. Perhaps the most memorable is Saul, whose interspersed monologues about his life fortify García's structure. (“So where does Uncle Sam send me after nearly killing me in boot camp? The Pacific Theater. Made it sound like I was heading into some action movie with John Wayne. But I ended up in Alaska”). A memorable work. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)