Here are two stories of two seventh-grade kids finding their way in new schools. The First Rule of Punk is a Pura Belpré honor book, and Roll with It is a 2019 Cybils finalist.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez. Viking, 2017. ISBN 978-0425290408. Read ebook on Libby.
Malú (short for Maria Lúisa) is about to start seventh grade when her mother announces that they’ll be moving to Chicago for a couple of years. Since her parents are divorced, this means leaving her dad and his record store as well as her friends.
Malú loves punk music and making zines, so she’s not at all pleased with her mother’s frequent requests for her to “act like a señorita.”
But for the first time in her life, she’s living somewhere that being Mexican-American is ordinary – but having a white father and not especially comfortable speaking Spanish, she’s accused of being a “coconut”. Even if she doesn’t want to be “SuperMexican” like her Latin Studies professor mother, she loves the little Mexican cafe in their neighborhood. She builds a group of kids to form a punk band for the school talent show – but will their audition meet the principal’s idea of wholesome entertainment?
I’d been meaning to read this since it came out, and was so glad I finally did. Malú’s journey to claiming both sides of her identity and make friends in her new home, however temporary, was as full of spirit as the music she loves. I’m definitely looking forward to reading Strange Birds!
Roll with It by Jamie Sumner. Atheneum, 2019. ISBN 978-1534442559. Read from library copy.
Twelve-year-old Ellie is a huge fan of The Great British Baking Show and wants to be a professional baker one day. Ellie has cerebral palsy and is full of opinions, tired of being followed around by the aide and either ignored or stared at by her classmates, tired of being expected to be “sunshine and cuddles” just because she’s a kid in a wheelchair.
Then her grandfather in Arkansas found the truck keys her grandmother had hidden from him and crashed into the neighborhood store. Now Ellie has to start at a new school in the middle of the school year, at a town so tiny the middle school has never dealt with anyone who needs an individualized education plan before and doesn’t even have a handicap button on the front doors.
But maybe being there will help her grandfather remember who he is more of the time. And maybe in Coralee, the outspoken girl living with her grandparents next door, and Bert, a boy who can’t seem to help spouting facts about all kinds of random things, she’ll find the friends her own age she’s always wanted. Plus, she might have a chance to enter her grandmother’s church’s famous annual pie baking contest.
I am, like the author, the mother of a child with chronic illness rather than the person with that illness, and my daughter has different health issues. Still, the descriptions of Ellie’s life rang as true as I could tell from my position. And they are just part of Ellie’s life, balanced with descriptions of delicious baked goods, memories of her grandfather in happier times, her family’s struggle to find their way through his worsening Alzheimer’s, and the ups and downs of friendship. There are also charming letters to her baking icons throughout, perfectly showing that while she may have a disability, she is much more than it. Jamie Sumner’s new book, Tune It Out, is scheduled to come out in September.