Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Cristina Garcia

I had a little trouble at first with the format of this book --the chapters telling Yumi's present day story are interspersed with her grandfather Saul's narrative telling the story of his life. Saul is dying of cancer, and Yumi has asked him to tell her all about his past, something he has never talked much about before. His voice is so different from Yumi's that I found it a little jarring at first. Yumi comes from a mixed race background: her mother is Cuban, her father's parents are Japanese and Jewish, and that makes for a pretty interesting mix! Her parents are divorced and she divides her time between both of their houses, and her grandparents Saul and Hiroko's. At the beginning of the book, Yumi is pretty happy, but her happiness is soon threatened by Saul's diagnosis of cancer, and the news that her school can no longer fund the orchestra in which Yumi plays the clarinet. She takes music very seriously and the prospect of having no orchestra is devastating. Yumi is resourceful though: she convinces the rest of the kids in the orchestra that they can raise enough money to fund the rest of the year by giving a concert of punk music. There's tension in the book also because Yumi's mother has a boyfriend that Yumi doesn't like (of course Yumi eventually realizes that he's not such a bad guy) and there's a boy that Yumi thinks she likes (although she changes her mind by the end). I love a book with a good, triumphant ending, and I Wanna Be Your Shoebox certainly has one. Review by Stacy Church

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