Library Journal Review
Gr 4-6-Ruthie's English skills have finally gotten her promoted to the "smart" fifth grade class, and she's the "hopscotch queen of Queens" this week. Her family are still struggling with their recent move from Cuba, but she has a strong family network, some new friends, and a pair of brand-new white go-go boots. When a car accident leaves her in a body cast, Ruthie is scared, lonely, angry, and confused. The year that she spends healing in bed is one of growing up, of hard times and good friends, and of new skills and the determination to be herself in her new country. Behar's first middle grade novel, a fictionalized telling of her own childhood experiences in the 1960s, is a sweet and thoughtful read, slowly but strongly paced, and filled with a wealth of detail that makes the characters live. Both poetic and straightforward, this title will appeal to young readers with its respect for their experiences and its warm portrayal of a diverse community. In addition to Ruthie's realistic and personal voice, the novel's strength is in its complex portrayal of the immigrant experience, with overlapping stories of who goes and who comes and the paths they travel. VERDICT Recommended and relatable. Hand this to fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and those who loved The Secret Garden.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Ruthie is excited she's been promoted from the special fifth-grade class, her father bought her a pair of go-go boots, and her family has a brand new Oldsmobile. But on the way back from Staten Island, the Mizrahis are involved in a massive car accident, leaving Ruthie in a full-body cast. As she spends more than a year incapacitated, Ruthie questions life, especially when a neighbor's young son tragically dies, but gradually begins to see the good side of everything. From facing feelings about the boys who caused her accident, to finding herself in painting and writing, to learning that she isn't slow just because English isn't her first language, Ruthie faces everything with an impressive inner strength. Fans of character-driven middle-grade novels, particularly those looking for diverse books, should be easily charmed by Behar's story, which is inspired by her own childhood as a Cuban immigrant in 1960s New York and her first-hand experience of surviving a car crash and spending a year in a full-body cast (an author's note offers some illuminating details).--Tomsu, Lindsey Copyright 2017 Booklist
Horn Book Review
In this novel based on the authors childhood, Ruthie is just ten years old in 1966 when she arrives in Queens from Cuba with her little brother and parents. Because she only speaks Spanish, she is placed in the fifth-grade dumb class. Over the next eight months Ruthies English improves, she becomes the neighborhood hopscotch queen, and shes ready to move out of the remedial class. Life is looking up, but then everything comes crashing down when she breaks her leg in a car accident, requiring a full-body cast. Immobile in bed for almost a year, Ruthie is dependent on her mother for everything, and as the months pass, feelings of anger, loneliness, and despair fill her heart. When her next-door neighbor introduces her to drawing and painting, her attention refocuses and she begins to heal emotionally. As she attempts to learn how to walk again, Ruthie finds that friends, family, and the ability to look beyond the present into the future can help turn her brokenness into wholeness. Through an unflinchingly honest first-person narrative, readers are taken through a traumatic period in the authors life (an appended note provides more context and encourages readers to speak up. Tell your story). Effectively scattered Spanish phrases lend authenticity, while period references evoke the 1960s setting. alma ramos-mcdermott (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
In the 1960s, Ruthie Mizrahi, a young Jewish Cuban immigrant to New York City, spends nearly a year observing her family and friends from her bed. Before the accident, Ruthie's chief goals are to graduate out of the "dumb class" for remedial students, to convince her parents to buy her go-go boots, and to play hopscotch with other kids in her Queens apartment building. But after Papi's Oldsmobile is involved in a fatal multicar collision, Ruthie's leg is severely broken. The doctor opts to immobilize both legs in a body cast that covers Ruthie from chest to toes. Bedridden and lonely, Ruthie knows she's "lucky" to be alive, but she's also "broken." She begins collecting stories from her Jewban grandparents; her fellow young immigrant friends, Belgian Danielle and Indian Ramu; her "flower power" tutor, Joy; and her vibrant Mexican neighbor, Chicho, an artist who teaches her about Frida Kahlo. Ruthie also prays and writes letters to God, Shiva, and Kahlo, asking them for guidance, healing, and forgiveness. A cultural anthropologist and poet, the author based the book on her own childhood experiences, so it's unsurprising that Ruthie's story rings true. The language is lyrical and rich, the intersectionalityethnicity, religion, class, genderinsightful, and the story remarkably engaging, even though it takes place primarily in the island of Ruthie's bedroom. A poignant and relevant retelling of a child immigrant's struggle to recover from an accident and feel at home in America. (Historical fiction. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.