cover image Falling Short

Falling Short

Ernesto Cisneros. Quill Tree, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-288172-4

Cisneros (Efrén Divided) follows up his Pura Belpré Award–winning debut with a playful and perceptive contemporary middle grade tale about two best friends that’s dedicated to “everyone who has ever felt like they fall short of what the world expects of them.” It’s the start of sixth grade at California’s Mendez Middle School, and best friends Isaac Castillo, who is of Mexican descent, and Marco Honeyman, who is “half-Jewish, half-Mexican,” have big goals for the school year. Though Isaac is a gifted basketball player who displays excellent sportsmanship on the court, he struggles to get good grades. Meanwhile, Marco, a short-statured, self-professed “geek” and straight-A student, has no natural aptitude for sports. But with renewed efforts—and each other’s help—they aim to become all-rounders on and off the court (“Win or lose, you gotta keep shooting the ball—because eventually, it will go in”). Told through animated alternating first-person chapters, Cisneros’s story not only captures the anxiety—and at times, humor—of trying to measure up to expectations, it also tackles delicate subject matter, such as parental absence and alcohol reliance, with profound sensitivity and nuance. A narrative slam dunk for fans of Donna Barba Higuera and Meg Medina. Ages 8–12. Agent: Deborah Warren, East/West Literary. (Mar.)