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FICTION

Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish

272p. Viking. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101997260.
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OrangeReviewStarGr 4–7—This middle grade story, set in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, pulls together important themes of family, identity, bilingualism, friends, and bullying. Marcus Vega navigates his six-foot-tall, 180-pound frame through middle school while also caring for his younger sibling, Charlie, who has Down Syndrome. Because of his large size, some of his peers consider him to be a monster, or even a bully. When a real bully uses the "R" word in reference to Charlie, Marcus punches him in the jaw. This begins a series of events in which he is expelled from school before spring break, causing his mother to take the boys to Puerto Rico where they are introduced to their father's extended family for the first time. Marcus decides to locate his long-absent father and over the course of five days, readers travel the island with him as he is introduced to its rich flora and fauna, foods, community life, music, and friendliness. Marcus eventually comes to terms with his life challenges, including his own identity.
VERDICT An excellent choice for upper elementary and middle grade libraries given its multiple, age-appropriate themes and the window it provides to life in a Puerto Rico before Hurricane María.

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