Lolo’s Sari-Sari Store

­Atheneum. Aug. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534494473.
Gr 1-4–From the opening page, in a first-person narration, a young girl tells of her recent dream of her favorite summers, spent with her grandfather, or lolo, in his sari-sari store in the Philippines. The shop, which has “a good variety” of things, opens early for the bread rush, hot pan de sal that everyone buys in multiples, and which quickly sells out. The child watches her lolo’s ongoing kindnesses, from giving away sweets to children too poor to pay to listening to seafaring stories from an old sailor who just needs an audience. These joy-filled summers come to an end, though, and the girl and her mother are in the United States, where things feel different. First, the large grocery stores are cold and overwhelming. But an encounter with a kind woman over packaged pan de sal reminds her of Lolo, and the child finds a way to connect his habits with her new home. Her small acts of kindness soon bring her in touch with new neighbors and new friends, while the sky overhead reminds her of the sky back “home.” Lee is fairly daring in thrusting readers back in time first; it’s an awkward construct to consistently find the girl reflecting on how it was, back then, until the shift into the present provides balance. But the vibrant storytelling, beautifully portrayed by Almeda in scene after scene of textures and colors, compensates, and the story of homesickness brought to rights will resonate for many.
VERDICT A lovely story fusing past and present, family lost and found, in memory and sensory experiences. An essential book for the shelves.

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