Just Maria

Fitzroy. Jan. 2022. 140p. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781646030828.
Gr 4 Up–Sixth grader Maria Romero is blind and opinionated. She doesn’t want to be pitied for her blindness; it’s all she has known. She doesn’t have any superpowers, and she doesn’t want to have to behave in an exemplary way, especially when it comes to her neighbor and classmate, J.J. Munson. He’s fat, asthmatic, wears army boots, and has no filter. He does treat Maria with consideration for her blindness, like announcing himself by name when he greets her instead of making her guess his voice as others tend to do. Maria allows herself “Crabby Abby Days” and shares her top ten list of the most annoying things about being blind, with number one being the “Can You Guess Who This Is?” game. J.J. is also relentlessly optimistic and takes fabulous care of his severely autistic younger sister. He wants to start a detective agency with Maria, which Maria has no interest in. He blithely ignores her and sets up a series of challenges, which Maria has no intention of attempting, until she does. Maria is an utterly engaging, often hilarious narrator. Her cynicism and dry humor make her a bit prickly, which is the way she likes it. J.J. is endearing and perhaps not as clueless as Maria believes. Short chapters and a hunt for a missing child add to the appeal.
VERDICT Readers will learn much as they fall in love with Maria and J.J. A terrific title that will be popular.

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