Jo & Rus

Kaboom!. Feb. 2021. 208p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781684156108.
Gr 4-7–Bullied because she lives in a trailer park, 11-year-old Jo Sumpter hates middle school. She plays hooky to follow a one-eyed-cat back to its junkyard home, and while hiding out in a broken-down van with the feline, she is found by 16-year-old Rus Deleon, whose family owns the junkyard. The two bond over a shared love of the TV show Magic Cat and Rus introduces Jo to his accepting friends and helps her find her place at school. But their growing friendship is tested when Rus starts to turn his college dreams into reality and Jo fears that she’ll be left behind. Set in Florida, the narrative initially focuses on Jo coming out of her shell but later explores Rus’s aspirations of becoming an astronautical engineer. Winslow weaves these two story threads together to produce a straightforward and optimistic narrative about rising above prejudice and finding friends with similar interests. A middle schooler and a high school student may seem an unlikely duo, but Rus is like an older brother to Jo. The cartoonish, earth-toned art will appeal to younger readers. Rus is brown-skinned and Puerto Rican, while Jo is white; secondary characters are diverse, depicted with different skin tones and ethnicities.
VERDICT Readers will root for Jo and Rus to rise above obstacles and succeed in this wholesome tale of friendship.

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