cover image Abuela, Don’t Forget Me

Abuela, Don’t Forget Me

Rex Ogle. Norton Young Readers, $18.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-3240-1995-4

Ogle pays clear-eyed tribute to his maternal abuela while covering heavy topics such as child abuse, financial precarity, and racism in this searing verse memoir, a standalone companion to Free Lunch and Punching Bag. Chronological vignettes depict Ogle’s evolution from joyful toddlerhood (“My giggles cannot be stopped,/ they rush out like ants from a kicked mound”) to tumultuous adolescence (“junior year names/ Beaner./ Faggot”), astutely describing desperate hunger, whiplash from constantly moving house, and the pain from his mother’s physical abuse. Amid these difficult experiences, though, is Abuela’s steadying presence; her unwavering belief in Ogle (“Your future will be bright,” she says) and bone-deep appreciation for their shared Mexican heritage buoy him toward his future. Without weighing the narrative down, Ogle uses snappy verse rich in salient details and sprinkled with references to his previous works (“more than a punching bag of bruises,/ more than the butt of jokes at school where my lunch is free”) to candidly portray the realities of his upbringing alongside Abuela’s influence in shaping his identity. A bittersweet foreword references his abuela’s dementia, which serves as a driving force behind this poignant story. Ages 13–up. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US. (Sept.)