The Other Half of Happy
The Other Half of Happy

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Annotation: 12-year-old Quijana struggles to identify with her Guatemalan heritage when her cousins move to town, while also attempting to come to grips with her grandmother's illness and her feelings for her new friend Jayden.
Catalog Number: #200828
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 317 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-452-16998-5 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-6746-9
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-452-16998-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-6746-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018037899
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
A seventh grader plots to run away to Grandma's instead of going on a family trip abroad.Half-Guatemalan, half-white Quijana, named for Don Quixote, is much happier identifying as Anglo than Latinx. She doesn't speak Spanish, a fact that doesn't bother her too much until her Guatemalan cousins move to town, and not fitting in with the other Latinx kids at her new junior high doesn't help matters. When her parents announce that the family, which includes her 3-year-old brother Memito, is going to Guatemala over winter break, Quijana knows she can't go and embarrass herself. She resolves to save money and buy a bus ticket to Florida, where her maternal grandmother is going through cancer treatments. Key to her plan is selling the Guatemalan huipil her abuela sent her in order to pay for the trip. Biracial Quijana's anxieties about her mixed identity, not fitting in, and wanting to find her own way will ring authentic for readers of mixed backgrounds, but her voice skews younger than 12, and preteens may be unconvinced of the sincerity of Quijana's friendships with her peers compared with her hyperattachment to Grandma, who seems like her real best friend. Spanish phrases are (thankfully) not italicized but are usually translated within a few sentences; appendices include Grandma's "wise words," quotations from Don Quixote, titles of poems referenced in the text, directions to a game played, and science notes.A novel about liminality with little in the way of originality. (Fiction. 8-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 47 -American-born 12-year-old Quijana lives in Texas and is the child of a Guatemalan father and a white mother. When Quijana starts sixth grade at a new school, her Spanish teacher mistakenly believes that Quijana is a native speaker. Spanish-speaking classmates call her a "coconut," their slang term for a Latino person who "acts white." Luckily, Quijana befriends Jayden and Zuri and quickly develops a crush on Jayden. Outside of school, Quijana struggles with her immediate and extended family. Her paternal family moves to the area, and Quijana's parents pressure her to engage with her Guatemalan side; they want her to wear a handmade garment called a huipil, which her abuela gives her, and speak Spanish with her on the phone. Inspired by her choir class, Quijana secretly learns to play her father's guitar, writing her own music instead of playing the Spanish songs he wants to teach her. The family grows concerned about her younger brother Memito, who may have autism, and her maternal grandmother, Grandma Miller, who lives in Florida and has cancer. When Quijana's parents arrange a family trip to Guatemala over the holiday break, she feels overwhelmed by family expectations and secretly buys a bus ticket to Grandma Miller's house. At its core, Balcárcel's novel is a story of identity within one's self and within a broader community. Quijana wants to embrace the pieces of her Guatemalan identity on her own terms and at her own pace, which gradually brings her closer to her family. Zuri and Jayden also navigate their cultural and sexual identities, respectively. Quijana struggles with being named after Don Quixote, perceiving him, and herself, as people who rarely succeed. The narrative moves at a quick and steady pace, leaving each component of the plot with a satisfying ending and believable loose ends. VERDICT Balcárcel's well-rounded characters, complex friendships, and nuanced family dynamics will resonate with many readers. This is a title that will remain relevant long past its publication date. A must-have for all library collections.-Liz Anderson, DC Public Library
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* As Quijana begins seventh grade, she finds that her school and classmates aren't the only things that have changed. Her father, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala, is putting more pressure on her to adopt his culture by speaking Spanish and playing guitar so that they can sing boleros mething made difficult by Quijana's lack of fluency in Spanish. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Memito, is behaving differently and having difficulty with words, leaving her desperate to find a way to help him. And then her grandma, who has taught her so much about nature and adventure, suddenly grows ill. As the world changes around her, Quijana learns that nothing can stop time, and with the help of her caring friends, loving family, the wisdom of nature, and course n Quixote, she must find the strength to overcome her fears and discover her true self. With poetic, flowing prose that sometimes feels more like a song and characters so convincing that they seem real, Balcárcel's stunning debut depicts the struggles of being raised with two cultures and the challenges of not being "authentic" enough this case, "not Guatemalan enough" or "not American enough." A lovely, moving, and realistic view of the struggles and insecurities well as the beauty at comes from being bicultural.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (9/1/19)
Kirkus Reviews
Pura Belpre Honor
School Library Journal (8/1/19)
Word Count: 70,591
Reading Level: 3.8
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.8 / points: 10.0 / quiz: 503271 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.3 / points:18.0 / quiz:Q77452
Lexile: HL570L
Guided Reading Level: X

2020 Pura Belpré Honor Book
A Junior Library Guild Selection
ALSC Notable Children's Book
2020 Jean Flynn Award for Best Middle Grade Book
2020 Spirit of Texas Reading Program Recommended Title

This immersive and beautifully written novel follows the story of Quijana, a girl in pieces.

Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole.

This is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.

• Lyrical middle grade debut from author Rebecca Balcárcel
• A diverse and family-centered story that resonates with anyone who remembers, or is going through, growing pains
• Inclusively embraces real life experiences with biracial, autistic, and gay characters

One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana's Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn't know more about her family's heritage.

One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she's found true friends. But she can't help the growing feelings she has for Jayden.

One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandma and trying to figure out what's going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother.

• A wonderful gift for bilingual and bicultural readers, introspective tweens and teens, and parents and educators
• Perfect for those who love the heart of Matt de la Peña, the honesty of Meg Medina, and the poetry of Kate DiCamillo
• Add it to the shelf with books like We Were Here by Matt de la Peña, Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

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