- Page Count: 256
- Release Date: April 11, 2017
- My Rating: 4 stars
Based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed.
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
I didn’t realize this middle grade book was the true story of the author’s experience as a kid until I read the note in the back! So that just made it even more powerful.
When Ruthie’s family moves from Cuba to Queens, she’s put in the “dumb” class at school just because her English isn’t very good. She becomes friends with a boy from India in a similar situation and eventually they’re both allowed to move to the “smart” class. But then Ruthie is in a car accident and has to spend a year in bed so her legs can heal.
Her transformation over the next year was amazing to watch unfold. She starts out hating the boys who caused the accident, but then begins to get a new perspective on life as she meets a variety of visitors. A Mexican man teaches her to paint, her Irish nurse shows her that everyone has some hidden battle, her hippie tutor asks her to contemplate what freedom means to her, and friends lose loved ones.
I’ve spent the past few years stuck in my house, so I really related to a lot of Ruthie’s observations! Her character had a very sweet, honest narration and totally seemed her age. And I loved how she was Jewish but prayed to God, Shiva, and Frida Kahlo at the same time.
This is a fast read, but still ended up being pretty inspirational and insightful. It showed the struggles that the parents went through as well and everyone just came across as very human. So this book is something any age could enjoy!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.