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Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Cover of Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Borrow Borrow

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don't have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci's school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna's jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci's grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she's left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don't have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci's school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna's jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci's grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she's left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

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    700
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  • Text Difficulty:
    3

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Meg Medina is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning book Merci Suárez Changes Gears, which was also a 2018 Kirkus Prize finalist. Her young adult novels include Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which won the 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award; Burn Baby Burn, which was long-listed for the National Book Award; and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. She is also the author of picture books Mango, Abuela, and Me, illustrated by Angela Dominguez, which was a Pura Belpré Author Award Honor Book, and Tía Isa Wants a Car, illustrated by Claudio Muñoz, which won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Richmond, Virginia.

    About Me:
    I don't think I could have grown up to be anything else but a writer. Not that I was especially talented at a young age, or that I knew any writers growing up in Flushing, Queens. No, I turned to writing because my family wouldn't stop talking. Ever.

    I'm part of a very ordinary Cuban family, which is to say, a meddling clan of aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are tireless storytellers. Stories are such a powerful way to remember and make sense of what happens to you in life—and plenty had happened to them by the time they arrived in the U.S. during the early 1960s. My parents left in the middle of a revolution in their country, and they arrived the way many immigrants do: with empty pockets, no language, and in shock.

    But they also knew the power of stories. Families need their own tales to survive hard times, and those stories are a rope that can attach even the youngest children to their roots. Stories help you learn all the things that really matter to the people who are trying to help you grow up.

    Whether my aunts were cooking a pot of rice and beans, mopping the floor, or just enjoying an afternoon coffee, they told me our stories. My head filled with pictures of my grandmother rolling cigars as a young girl; with pictures of Abuelo selling bicycles and building a school; with images of my delicate aunts wielding machetes in the sugar cane fields, their pants held up with rope. They told these events honestly and with pride and joy—sometimes losing themselves as they remembered the smells and sounds of home, maybe adding an extra detail or two. Sure, I read all the books my American friends were reading, but when I came home after school, my grandmother was always waiting with something really different and exciting—if I was lucky, maybe even inappropriate.

    "Did I ever tell you the story of the time the hurricane wiped out my village?" she asked me when I was six. "No? Oooosh. I can still smell the dead on the streets."

    See what I mean?


    That's why I'm an author. When I write today, I try to use as many of those scraps of true life in my work as I can, even the sad scraps no one likes to remember. I love honoring those tales because they rooted me and because they taught me that everyone's story is worth telling, and that every family has heroes. Sure, I mix them with more modern times and characters, but I always keep in mind how hard it is to be a kid who is American, but whose parents are from somewhere else. I try to give them the same rope.

    Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
    1. I adore big dogs, even the kind with feet that smell like Fritos.

    2. I am shamelessly addicted to Milk Duds, despite pleas from my dentist.

    3. I dance a mean salsa.

Reviews-
  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2018

    Gr 4-7-Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez is starting sixth grade and everything is changing. Not only do upper graders have to switch teachers throughout the day, but playing sports, like Merci loves to do, is seen as babyish and befriending boys is taboo. So when Merci is assigned to show new kid Michael Clark around as part of her scholarship package at Seaward Pines Academy, it's a problem. Especially when the richest, smartest, most popular girl in school, Edna, who gets to write the sixth grade's social rules and break them, too, seems to like Michael. Meanwhile, at home, Merci has to watch over her little twin cousins who live close by at Las Casitas, a row of houses belonging to Mami and Papi; Abuela and Lolo; and Tia, for free, so trying out for the school's soccer team and earning money to buy her dream bike is almost impossible. What's worse, Merci can't even talk to her beloved Lolo about all her problems like she used to as he starts acting less and less like himself. The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina's life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it's the ride that matters. VERDICT Pura Belpré-winning author Medina cruises into readers' hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library's shelves.-Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2018
    Merci navigates the challenges of being a scholarship kid at a posh South Florida private school and the expectations of and responsibilities to her intergenerational family.Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez isn't the typical Seaward Pines Academy sixth-grader. Instead of a stately mansion, Merci lives with her parents and older brother, Roli, in one of three identical homes next to her Cuban-American extended family: Abuela and Lolo, Tía Inéz, and her rambunctious little twin cousins. At school, Merci has to deal with condescending mean girl Edna Santos, who loves to brag, boss around her friends, and throw out hurtful comments that start with "No offense...." Although Merci wants to earn money so that she can afford a new bike, she's stuck volunteering for Sunshine Buddies, in which current students mentor new ones. What's worse is that her assigned buddy is Michael Clark, a new tall white boy in her class. At home, Merci's beloved Lolo begins to act erratically, and it becomes clear something secret and serious is happening. Medina writes about the joys of multigenerational home life (a staple of the Latinx community) with a touching, humorous authenticity. Merci's relationship with Lolo is heartbreakingly beautiful and will particularly strike readers who can relate to the close, chaotic, and complicated bonds of live-in grandparents.Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 6, 2018
    In this warmly told story, Medina (Burn Baby Burn) introduces 11-year-old Merci, descendent of Cuban immigrants, who attends a Florida private school on scholarship with her whip-smart older brother. Merci doesn’t feel much pressure to be anyone but herself, but her self-assuredness (“It’s never too early to work on your corporate leadership skills,” she declares at one point) makes her a target: rich kid Edna tries to put Merci outside the sixth grade girls’ friend circle, and the clashes make school miserable (“No offense is what Edna says right before she takes a hatchet to your feelings,” she reports). Merci’s home life is also stressful—money is tight, her beloved grandfather is failing, and familial obligations (mostly babysitting twin cousins) mean there’s no chance to try out for the school soccer team. Through all this, Medina keeps the tone light as Merci’s take-charge personality helps her to
    succeed in this coming-of-age tale about family and the perils of sixth grade. Ages 9–12. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary.

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