“Red, White, and Whole” by Rajani LaRocca

The Title: Red, White and Whole

Author: Rajani LaRocca

Publication: 2021 by Quill Tree Books

The Plot: Reha is 13 year old Indian American living in the midwest in 1983. She feels pulled between the American world in which she is growing up and the Indian culture of her parents. Reha’s mom Amma is reluctant to let her daughter participate in youth activities such as the school dance. When Amma becomes ill, Reha feels pressure to be the perfect daughter for her parents, even if that means sacrificing relationships at school

My Take: I though that this book conveyed well the struggle of a young person who is the second generation of a family that has immigrated to the United States. Author Rajani LaRocca’s choice to write in verse allows her to focus on the emotional life of Reha and acquaints the reader with the challenges that the character faces. Those looking for a plot-based page turner will be disappointed, but a reader who wants a sensitive portrayal of the struggles of immigrant families need look no further. Anyone who enjoys Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga will also love this book.

One Interesting Note About The Author: Much of Red, White, and Whole is based on LaRocca’s experiences growing up as an immigrant in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1980’s.

Ways to Live Forever

If you’re looking for a book to make you cry, this is it.  Eleven year old Sam has leukemia, so he stays home everyday with his teacher Ms. Willis and his friend Felix, who also has cancer.  Sam likes to list facts about himself, such as he has always wanted to go up a down elevator or take a ride on an airship.

With these lists, Sam seems to be able to hold his world together against his disease, but this stability is tested when Felix develops an infection and is rushed to the hospital.  He passes away a few days later and in the following weeks, Sam’s health also deteriorates.  Sam’s parents struggle to grant him some final wishes, including taking a ride on an airship.

The final pages are extraordinarily touching.  I’d recommend to ages 9 to 13.  Themes include perseverance in the face of death and family bonding in a time of trial.