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Falling short
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Publishers Weekly Review
Cisneros (Efrén Divided) follows up his Pura Belpré Award--winning debut with a playful and perceptive middle grade contemporary tale about two best friends that's dedicated to "everyone who has ever felt like they fall short of what the world expects of them." It's the start of sixth grade at California's Mendez Middle School, and best friends Isaac Castillo, who is of Mexican descent, and Marco Honeyman, who is "half-Jewish, half-Mexican," have big goals for the school year. Though Isaac is a gifted basketball player who displays excellent sportsmanship on the court, he struggles to get good grades. Meanwhile, Marco, a short-statured, self-professed "geek" and straight-A student, has no natural aptitude for sports. But with renewed efforts--and each other's help--they aim to become all-rounders on and off the court ("Win or lose, you gotta keep shooting the ball--because eventually, it will go in"). Told through animated alternating first-person chapters, Cisneros's story not only captures the anxiety--and at times, humor--of trying to measure up to expectations, it also tackles delicate subject matter, such as parental absence and alcohol reliance, with profound sensitivity and nuance. A narrative slam dunk for fans of Donna Barba Higuera and Meg Medina. Ages 8--12. Agent: Deborah Warren, East/West Literary. (Mar.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4--7--Best friends Isaac Castillo and Marco Honeyman have been bouncing back and forth between each other's houses for years. Isaac is Latinx, a basketball star who struggles in the classroom, whose parents' ongoing divorce is exacerbated by his father's alcoholism. Marco, described as "half-Jewish, half-Mexican," is an academic standout, although "even the short kids tower over [him]"; he longs for a closer relationship with his absent dad. Middle school, of course, will be a game changer for them all. With Spanish spoken throughout, the narrative's fluency is enhanced by the fact that Timothy Andrés Pabon as Isaac and Gary Tiedemann as Marco are bilingual. Pabon's voice is a bit more controlled, as if trying to keep Isaac's struggles and hopes from bursting; Tiedemann reads with his signature slight lilt, appropriately imbuing Marco with more open emotions. VERDICT Pura Belpré Award--winning Cisneros's sophomore effort gets undoubtedly boosted from this dynamic veteran narrator duo.
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