Manager of Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery in Park Rapids, Minn., Jennifer Wills Geraedts, shares a new favorite due out in September.
What if characters like Junie B. Jones and Ramona Quimby had been Mexican-American girls with concerns about immigration, culture, and language? That’s the flavor of Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco. When pre-teen Jacinta cleverly arranges a mentor/mentee pairing between herself and a white TV news reporter mentor, Jacinta initially thinks she’s hit the jackpot.
It’s not an unreasonable thing for a girl like Jacinta to do – Jacinta is a middle child, old enough to be expected to care for younger family members, and not old enough to wield the power of the oldest. Jacinta’s mother is out of the country, caring for Jacinta’s grandmother in Mexico, and Jacinta’s father, having to support his family alone while his wife is gone, is hardly home. Between time spent with a wealthy, famous white woman (or so it appears to Jacinta), time living in a wealthy country as an immigrant, and time spent in Mexico, Jacinta gets a new perspective on wealth, race, and culture. All the while, Jacinta is still a kid who wants what her peers want – attention.
Jacinta receives the attention she craves, in amusing – and sometimes inappropriate – ways. I found myself laughing at some moments and at other moments longing to reach through the pages and hold Jacinta tight. The beauty of this book is the accessibility to middle grade readers (though I encourage anyone to read it!). Author Judith Robbins Rose tackles some very real, hot-button issues in this book without it feeling like it’s an “issues book.” The narration is charming, Jacinta is funny, and there’s so much depth to this book. I highly recommend it as a classroom read or read-aloud at home. I plan to press it into the hands of lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents looking for a great book to read with the kid(s) in their lives over summer vacations.
Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco by Judith Robbins Rose. Candlewick, $16.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-7636-7235-5