No Matter the Distance

Quill Tree/HarperCollins/. Feb. 2023. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063006447.
Gr 3-7–Sixth grader Penny has cystic fibrosis, but she’s not a tragic figure. She’s sick, but a full person. This novel-in-verse follows a framing device of Penny’s poetry slam identity assignment, drawn out against her best friend moving, a CF health dip, and best of all, a dolphin floundering in her backyard creek. The poetry angle is slight—the words are straightforward, without many poetic elements—but it does make this story fast-paced. Baldwin notes that she has read books about characters with cystic fibrosis, but never written by someone who had the diagnosis. To her they felt cheap, mawkish. She changes that with this novel, and the difference in hearing it from her mouth is palpable. Cystic fibrosis is a plot point but not the plot point. This quick read also manages to show terrific character growth. Penny accepts the full spectrum of emotion. She realizes she can be lucky and angry, terrified and brave simultaneously. Main characters are cued as white.
VERDICT This book will draw upper elementary and lower middle grade students in with the cute animal relationship but will keep them engaged with the emotionally complex, nuanced depiction of a young girl with cystic fibrosis.

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