Genre: Science Fiction/ Realistic Fiction
Shelf Location: Middle Grade
This review is solely my opinion. I was provided a copy of this book from Penguin Young Readers partner in exchange for my honest review. The comments in this review do not reflect the views of the author or the publisher. The copy used in this review is an uncorrected copy from the publisher, some quotes may have been changed prior to publishing.
In the summer of 1984, 12-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet makes the trip from Huntsville, Alabama, to Harlem, where she’ll spend a few weeks with her father while her mother deals with some trouble that’s arisen for Ebony-Grace’s beloved grandfather, Jeremiah. Jeremiah Norfleet is a bit of a celebrity in Huntsville, where he was one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA two decades earlier. And ever since his granddaughter came to live with him when she was little, he’s nurtured her love of all things outer space and science fiction–especially Star Wars and Star Trek, both of which she’s watched dozens of time on Grandaddady’s Betamax machine. So even as Ebony-Grace struggled to make friends among her peers, she could always rely on her grandfather and the imaginary worlds they created together. In Harlem, however, she faces a whole new challenge. Harlem in 1984 is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and her first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that gritty and graffitied Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.
“Harlem Shuffle” by The Rolling Stone
“Welcome to New York” – Taylor Swift
“Hello Brooklyn”- Beastly Shuffle
“My Girl”- The Temptations
“Eye of the Tiger”- Survivor
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
“Another One Bites the Dust”- Queen
“Never Gonna Give You Up”- Rick Astley
“Parents Just Don’t Understand “- Will Smith
Ebony is an imaginative twelve-year-old girl who is spending the summer away from her Grandfather. Her Grandfather is described as a person who started Ebony’s love for using imaginative space tales to handle situations she’s facing. Her Grandfather Jeremiah Norfleet is a famous African American who integrated NASA. Ebony must learn to adjust to the new culture associated with living in Harlem with her Father for the summer. Ebony’s imaginative personality has her friends in the area describing her as weird and quiet. Her once best friend, Bianca, is now a foreigner to her as they continue to argue over differences during her trip. Ebony’s fascination with space, her Grandfather, and Star Trek leave her labeled as an outcast. Will she learn to try to fit in for the summer, or will she continue to struggle with adjusting to the area? Will she break out of her shy shell for a bit to let someone other than her family?
This book is written in a way that combines the imaginative tales between a granddaughter and Grandfather. It showcases the special bond between the two. Jeremiah Norfleet facilitates an environment filled with an imagination that stays with Ebony even through her travels to New York City. I love the comic strips inserted into the novel. The images provide a visual view of the descriptive text. Ebony reminded me of myself when I was younger, but of course, growing up in the 90s was different than growing up in the 80s. However, I was raised by my grandmother, who was born in the 40s, which allowed for exposure to 80s culture. It is a challenge for someone to fit into an area where they feel they don’t belong regardless if members of their race live in that area. The more you read the novel, the more you understand the symbolism behind the title. I assume the ice cream sandwich is black on the outside but white on the inside. That is a standard description of the black community associated with someone who is deemed as being caucasian on the inside but looks black. The term is dubbed to anyone who doesn’t fit in, speak the same lingo, or like the same the music. I love that the author incorporates the challenges faced by African Americans in Harlem during that period and how she develops Julius, Ebony’s Father.
If you’re interested in reading a novel that highlights uniqueness, imagination, and focuses on an African American/Black family during the 80s in Harlem, then this is your book. I recommend this for all upper elementary and middle-grade youth.
bi Zoboi is the author of two novels for young adults, including Pride and American Street, a finalist for the National Book Award. She holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely !
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