A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Merci's family comes from Cuba originally, and a good amount of the culture, food, traditions, some Spanish phrases are represented.
Love and respect your family. Be proud of your traditions. No one can tell you who to be. Make friends with the people who respect you. Being different isn't always a bad thing. Do your best and you can hold your head high. Change isn't easy, but it's part of life.
Positive Role Models
Merci has a close-knit family who live in the same building and share meals, caregiving responsibilities, and resources with one another. She's particularly close to her grandfather, Lolo, whose aging issues are bringing changes to the family. Merci has teachers whom she can trust. Her older brother Roli, who's getting ready to head to college, gives her advice and support.
Violence & Scariness
Merci shakes her 5-year-old cousin when she's frustrated. Merci's grandfather charges at her grandmother when he's in a dementia state. Family members are in a car accident, which injures them slightly. Merci hears of a kid at another school who brings a knife and is taken by the police. Merci thinks of punching people when she's angry.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Talk of eighth-graders kissing.
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Products & Purchases
Snapchat, National Geographic, Cadillac, Walgreens, Walmart, Nike soccer cleats, Gotas de Brillo, Elektra bicycle, Echo speaker, Gilda crackers.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Meg Medina's Merci Suárez Changes Gears won the 2019 Newbery Medal. Merci is a sixth-grader whose Cuban American family works hard to give her a great education by sending her to an elite private school. Class and culture issues are touched upon, as Merci feels like an outsider as a working-class Latina in an elite Florida school. Merci has a wandering eye, which she tries to hide and control, lest she be teased by the mean girl, Edna Santos, at her school. Meanwhile, at home, Merci's rock -- her beloved grandfather -- is struggling with age-related dementia, which changes the whole family dynamic. The story is infused with Cuban traditions, sayings, and values.
Is It Any Good?
Fascinating in its depiction of Cuban American culture, this optimistic story portrays immigrant life in South Florida. Kids will relate to the OMG-so-awkward moments that Merci suffers in sixth grade. Her place in the social pecking order isn't quite secure, and the girls she thought were her friends show flashes of brilliant charm and stunning cruelty in the blink of an eye. What Merci has that those kids might not is a rich family tradition that's so woven into her core values that she's unaware of how lucky she is. Sure, she shares a room with her brother and is obligated to watch her twin cousins after school, but the pride she takes in playing on her Papi's soccer team, and the loving relationship she shares with her grandfather, Lolo, are priceless.
Author Meg Medina immerses Merci Suárez Changes Gears in a culture that many readers might not be intimately familiar with. The "Gilda" crackers, the Noche-buena Christmas Eve traditions, the delicious food her abuela cooks, and most of all, the closeness that defines many immigrant families. The plot takes a few chapters to get moving, but by the end of the book, Merci and her family feel like friends and neighbors.
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