What If a Fish

S. & S. Aug. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534449831.
Gr 4-6–Life is changing rapidly for Eddie Aguado in Fajardo’s middle grade debut. His Colombian father died when Eddie was only four, and he’s since lived with his white, American mother in Minnesota. As Eddie navigates evolving friendships and tries to support his mother by winning a fishing contest (despite not knowing how to fish), Eddie’s half-brother calls with news about his abuela in Colombia. Eddie travels to Colombia to spend time with both his brother and his abuela, with whom he forms a distinct bond despite the brevity of the relationship. When abuela passes, Eddie and his brother traverse literal and metaphorical waters to find home and family, together. Fajardo doesn’t shy away from conversations about grief and racism, and provides context and support for those experiences. Among them is Eddie’s struggle with racist bullying. Some ethnic slurs are used throughout, but Fajardo handles it gracefully—their inclusion feels appropriate both for the audience and within the context of the book. Slivers of magic weave through the narrative, but this isn’t a fantasy. Whether the elements are real, imagined, or something else is entirely up to the reader. Many will identify with Eddie as he struggles with his Colombian identity, and others will learn a great deal through his internal dialogue.
VERDICT A whimsical and inviting #OwnVoices story of family, friendship, and identity. Recommended as a general purchase.

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