The Order of Things

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Jun. 2023. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593530900.
Gr 4-6–Langley (When Langston Dances) deftly twines music, poetry, family, and friendship in her middle grade debut in verse. Eleven year-old April is a budding percussionist under the tutelage of neighbor and found family Papa Zee. When April’s best friend Zee, Papa Zee’s son and a violin prodigy, passes away unexpectedly, her life is thrown into chaos. Her mother is dating a woman from work and things are getting serious. Papa Zee struggles to maintain his job through his grief. At school, April’s fledgling friend Asa is mysteriously unwell and frequently absent. As April navigates the tumult, she wrestles with a secret which might have saved Zee’s life. Ultimately, an opportunity to use her voice to save another friend helps April find resolution. Langley’s verse is both approachable and engaging. Despite a relatively low word count, characters, setting, and plot are richly developed. Readers coming for the music will stay for the feels; readers looking for a good cry may find themselves seeking out more about April’s pantheon of “drum mavens.” Characters are presumed cisgender; Mama is queer. April and most other characters are Black; Asa and her family are white. Papa Zee and April’s mama are both single parents when the book begins.
VERDICT A strong purchase for most collections and an easy recommendation for a variety of readers.

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