cover image My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

Ibi Zoboi. Dutton, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-399-18735-3

Rising seventh-grader Ebony-Grace Norfleet Freeman (or, as she prefers, Cadet E-Grace Starfleet) is obsessed with all manner of science fiction, much preferring her spacefaring internal life to the real world. When her aging grandfather, who was among the first black NASA engineers, is beset by unspecified trouble, Ebony is sent from her affluent Alabama family to stay with her working-class father in Harlem, which she calls “No Joke City.” Homesick, named “Ice Cream Sandwich” by her peers (“Chocolate on the outside, vanilla on the inside”), and sporting superhero T-shirts, Ebony finds it impossible to fit in with neighborhood girls interested in double Dutch and Dapper Dan’s. Instead, she uses her “imagination location” to create tales about rescuing her grandfather, the audacious Captain Fleet, a storyline illustrated in occasional unattributed comic strips. Ebony-Grace’s behaviors present as neurodiverse, though this is never labeled in the text. The girl eventually learns “to see a place with new eyes,” but underdeveloped subplots about her grandfather and her father’s brother hamper Ebony-Grace’s exploration of her second home. Even so, Zoboi (American Street) excels at resurrecting 1980s Harlem in her middle grade debut, expertly sprinkling in nostalgia-fueled references to break dancing, rap battles, and the rise of female MCs. Ages 10–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. [em](Aug.) [/em]