How To Make Friends with the Sea

Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Mar. 2020. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374311995.
Gr 3-7–Twelve-year-old Pablo finds himself adjusting to another new environment as his zoologist mother explores fresh opportunities. This time they land in the Philippines, and even though Pablo is starting to make connections, his OCD and anxiety are escalating. He misses his estranged dad and feels at fault for their sporadic relationship. Then his Mom takes in Chiqui, a traumatized orphan with a cleft lip. Pablo warms up to Chiqui, finding himself tentatively opening up to new people and experiences while making peace with a world in which he has little control. Debut author Guerrero presents an #OwnVoices account of life in present-day Philippines. Readers will be immersed in Filipino culture as they fall into Pablo’s story and quest for home. Many will relate to his struggles with upheaval, worry, and misplaced guilt. Numerous issues are explored in the plot, yet it never feels too busy or cluttered. Short chapters will keep readers turning pages, and the story seems to finish as quickly as it begins. As in real life, not everything ends perfectly, but Pablo finds the courage to be truthful with his mother and finally gains a stable home and secure family. A glossary of Tagalog words and phrases is included in the back of the volume.
VERDICT Through caring for his new foster sibling, and the patience and kindness of trusted adults, Pablo starts to gain a sense of calm and security. A solid title that explores contemporary life in the Philippines, as well as coping with anxiety and OCD, all within a heartwarming story starring a likable protagonist.

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