Meg Medina’s book “Merci Suárez Changes Gears” just won the 2019 Newbery Medal in the United States. The Newbery Medal is the highest honor for a children’s book.
The beautiful book tells the story of a young latino girl, Mercedes Suarez who is the child of Cuban immigrants. She lives with her parents and older brother, science-whiz Roli, in one of three identical homes. They live next to their Cuban-American extended family: Abuela and Lolo (grandparents), Tía Inéz (aunt), and her boisterous twin cousins. Merci and Roli are scholarship students at an expensive private school, Seaward Pines Academy, and serve community service to pay part of their tuition.
Merci narrates her own story, from the first day of school through the end of the school year and relates the humor, anger, sorrow, joy, and confusion of being in middle school. The eleven-year-old isn’t the typical Seaward Pines Academy sixth-grader. She works hard to keep her grades up, but she doesn’t have Roli’s love for academics, and is still adjusting to the school.
At school, she deals with nasty girl Edna Santos, who loves to boss around her friends, and spit out hurtful comments that start with “No offense….” Although Merci wants to earn money so that she can buy a new bike, she’s stuck volunteering for Sunshine Buddies, in which current students mentor new ones. What’s unfortunate is that her assigned buddy is Michael Clark, a new tall white boy in her class. At home, money is tight, her beloved grandfather is fading, and family duties (mostly babysitting twin cousins) mean there’s no chance to try out for the school soccer team.
Medina the author is able to get to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school. Middle School readers, especially girls, who will identify with Merci and her challenges and triumphs and will root for Merci.
Adapted By: Biyash Choksey