Frankie & Bug

Aladdin. Oct. 2021. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534482531.
Gr 5 Up–A heartwarming tale of friendship set in 1987. Beatrice, Bug for short, is devastated to find out her summer won’t go as planned. Instead of going to the beach with her brother Danny, Bug must be babysat by her upstairs neighbors, Phillip and Hedvig. Her mother’s promise that she will redeem her summer comes in the form of Phillip’s nephew, Frankie, coming to visit. Bug thinks she’ll finally have someone to go to the beach with, but she quickly realizes Frankie doesn’t enjoy the same things she does and has his own interests, such as the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer on the loose in Los Angeles. To Bug’s surprise, she enjoys helping Frankie with the hunt for the Midnight Marauder, and they grow close enough for Frankie to reveal his secret—he was born a girl, even though he has always felt like a boy. In the beginning of the story Bug is self-centered and whiny, which may lead readers to dislike her, but Frankie brings about a positive change in her behavior that makes her character more enjoyable to follow. Difficult themes such as racism and homophobia are included in the narrative, and how Bug comes to realize these things exist in the world is realistic and heartbreaking. Bug and her brother are Salvadoran and Hedvig is Hungarian.
VERDICT Forman has crafted a beautiful and important coming-of-age tale with just a bit of mystery thrown in. A must-have for middle grade libraries.

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