28
Jan
19

I did not expect this. CBR11 Review 7.

unknownLast week, my boss gave me this book and asked me if I would prepare a presentation on it for some workshops we have coming up. It looked cute: pink and white stripes on the cover and a girl spilling her ice cream. Sounded fine to me!

And the book was indeed fine. Blended tells the story of Isabella, a sixth grader with divorced parents. She struggles to adapt to the back-and-forth custody arrangement that her parents have, and doesn’t feel like she can call either her mom’s or her dad’s house “home.”

In addition, Isabella is trying to figure out who she is. You see, her mom is white and her dad is black. Her mom works as a waitress and has a boyfriend who manages a bowling alley. Her dad is a high-powered businessman and lives in a giant house, and has a girlfriend who wears beautiful suits and shops in the most expensive stores.

Is she more like her mom? She loves bowling and driving around in John Mark’s pick-up truck. She likes to go to Dunkin Donuts as a special treat. Or, is she more like her dad? She loves new clothes and hanging out with her almost-step-brother. She has a great time going out to eat in expensive restaurants wearing nice dresses. Isabella is also a piano prodigy, and is getting ready for an important recital. At her mom’s house, she practices on a small Casio keyboard, and at her dad’s she uses a huge concert piano.

But which Isabella is the real Isabella?

I appreciated Sharon Draper’s insight into how a young girl might tread through these waters. What gives someone their identity? Is it where they live or the color of their skin? Or is it something more?

AND THEN.

With 20 pages left to go, this book takes a turn I did not expect, and suddenly becomes The Hate U Give, Junior.

I think its important that younger kids are made aware of some of the racial injustices in our country today, and this book most definitely presents some of them in a very uncomfortable way. Good on Sharon Draper to take that on in a middle grade book.

My only complaint is that I felt as if Isabella didn’t get any closure on some of the things that happened to her toward the end. But then I realized, that’s life. Not everything is wrapped neatly with a bow. Life is messy. And this story might provide some worthy discussion topics for younger (4th-7th grade?) readers who aren’t quite ready to dig into Angie Thomas or Jason Reynolds.

 

 


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