A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book looks at the complexities behind racial, cultural, and ethnic identities. Not only is there a young couple actively pursuing their dream to be married against their families' wishes, but they are doing this directly after the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling, which opened the doors for interracial couples to marry. The case itself is explored, detailed, and explained. Historical context is also educational -- the Vietnam War is raging, protests against the war are prevalent, Dr. Martin Luther King's philosophies and his assassination are spoken about. The main character has a learning disability, which wasn't well understood in this time period, so as she begins to understand more about it, its characteristics and treatments are explained. There are recipes and tips for baking the cookies and breads that are baked in the bakery owned by the family in the book.
There are different kinds of beauty. Creative outlets can provide an outlet when you doubt yourself. Hard work pays off. Sometimes you need to allow people to help you. It feels good to be seen for who you are. Take a risk, express yourself. Stand up for who you are. Take time to play and enjoy the moment-- even when bad things are happening. When you open up to a trusted friend, you might feel your friendship grow. You have everything you need, you just need to find the right purpose to suit the tools you have. Art is a gift to the world -- trust that people will see what they need to see. Everything is easy if you take it step by step. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. We may lose the small battles, but we can win the big war. We need to be true to ourselves no matter what. Be the change.
Positive Role Models
Main character Ariel is very close to her family -- they work together in their family bakery, and they share an intimate space in their apartment. Her parents work very hard, and they show her how hard work pays off. However, they can be set in their ways, which causes huge rifts in the family. Their ability to learn and grow, however, becomes apparent. Ariel's sister Leah follows her heart and her ideals, which Ariel admires. Ariel's teacher sees her as a kid with learning disabilities -- not as a lazy kid, or one who can't learn -- and she gives Ariel the tools she needs to grow. The family's rabbi provides the family with guidance. Leah's boyfriend Raj is true to himself, is very respectful, kind, and hardworking. Ariel admires him and appreciates his differences. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Loving couple who fought for their right to live as an interracial married couple also serve as positve influences.
Though this story focuses on two particular ethnic groups -- Jewish American and Indian American -- it delves deeply into what racism and antisemitism feel like to a child and to a family. The particulars about the Loving v. Virginia case are outlined and examined by the main character in ways that are digestible to middle-grade readers. There are breakthroughs in acceptance and understanding of peoples' differences in this story that feel accessible to kids. Women are represented as strong, independent, flawed, and complex. A main character struggles with a learning disability and the feelings of inadequacy that spring up when her disability is not treated properly. Characters stand up to hatred and prejudice, take risks for the people they love, and try to build bridges among different ethnic and racial groups.
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Violence & Scariness
Feelings of threat and cultural violence. A bully taunts and harasses a girl because she's Jewish. Soldiers are reported to have died in the Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. Swastikas are painted on the bakery door, causing the main character's family to feel threatened. Riots break out across the country after this assassination.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens kiss. Ariel feels self-conscious about sitting on the bed that her sister and her husband share.
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"Damn it all to hell."
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Products & Purchases
Wonder Woman, Lassie, Sanka, Days of Our Lives, Chanel No. 5, South Connecticut State, Superman, The Flash, Aquaman, The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Chevy, Mr. Clean, Wonder Bread, The New York Times, Ivory Soap, Breck shampoo, Elizabeth Taylor, Bye Bye Birdie, Fiddler on the Roof, Muhammed Ali, Paul Newman, Elvis Presley, Buick, Time magazine, Nancy Drew, Johnson's Baby Shampoo, IBM, Now & Laters, Hershey's Kisses, Macy's, 21 Club, Lucky Charms, Coca Cola, Lincoln Center, Pez, CBS
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoke cigarettes in the park, Ma drinks strong drinks that smell like rubbing alcohol and lime, the family drinks wine with Sabbath meals. Ari wonders about people doing drugs in San Francisco during the Summer of Love.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that How to Find What You're Not Looking For, by Newberry Honor winner Veera Hiranandani (The Night Diary), is a story about a 12-year-old girl whose sister elopes with a man whose ethnic background differs from her family's identity. She's White and Jewish American and he's Indian American. This story provides an in-depth exploration of what it means to be different from the norm, and how being true to your heritage, beliefs, and background can affect your life. In the story, it's 1967 and the Supreme Court has just ruled in the case of Loving v. Virginia, declaring the ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional, and an exploration of interracial marriage is a theme here. There are threats by classmates and people in the predominantly White community to harm or slander the the main character's Jewish family. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ensuing riots are discussed. Teens kiss. Parents have a drink at night, teens are seen smoking, and drug use during the 1960s is briefly a topic.
Is It Any Good?
This is a richly layered and beautifully told story about bringing races and ethnicities together in a time when differences were the norm. How to Find What You're Not Looking For has introspection built into its very fabric. Written in the second person, the reader becomes a "you" living life as a Jewish girl in a world where interracial marriages have only just been legally allowed. This "you," is Ariel Goldberg, whose world is turned upsode down when her sister elopes with a man whose family immigrated from India. "You" stuggle with writing, with organizing things, with school in general. "Your" parents keep their heads down, managing to run a beloved bakery in a town where people paint swastikas on the bakery window.
Ari also begins an artistic journey, writing poetry that helps her express herself when life is overwhelming. Because of the successful use of the "you" voice, this act also feels intimate, and the expression that Ari engages in becomes the reader's expression as well. The topics that the book addresses consequently become intimate in a way that will become very relatable to kids. This is a memorable read that touches on a historically indelible time.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.