Zoboi's middle-grade debut takes readers back to Harlem in the 1980s. Ebony-Grace lives with her mom in Huntsville, Alabama, and idolizes her grandfather, one of NASA's first Black engineers. Together, Ebony-Grace and her grandfather fantasize about life in space. When he gets into trouble and Ebony-Grace is sent to her father in New York, her first instinct is to retreat into her "imagination location." However, it's only when she is able to merge her imagination with her reality that Ebony-Grace finds the courage to meet her real life head-on. As she endeavors to adjust to her new surroundings, where she doesn't feel like she fits in with other kids, Ebony-Grace faces each obstacle in her own unique way—and comes out the other side with brand new friends. Because the narrative's focus is on Ebony-Grace's time in Harlem, the trouble with her grandfather is never made clear, but readers will nevertheless become engrossed in her story. Fueled with rich imaginative scenes and comics-style illustrations, this book will truly transport its young readers to another world. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Rising seventh-grader Ebony-Grace Norfleet Freeman (or, as she prefers, Cadet E-Grace Starfleet) is obsessed with all manner of science fiction, much preferring her spacefaring internal life to the real world. When her aging grandfather, who was among the first black NASA engineers, is beset by unspecified trouble, Ebony is sent from her affluent Alabama family to stay with her working-class father in Harlem, which she calls "No Joke City." Homesick, named "Ice Cream Sandwich" by her peers ("Chocolate on the outside, vanilla on the inside"), and sporting superhero T-shirts, Ebony finds it impossible to fit in with neighborhood girls interested in double Dutch and Dapper Dan's. Instead, she uses her "imagination location" to create tales about rescuing her grandfather, the audacious Captain Fleet, a storyline illustrated in occasional unattributed comic strips. Ebony-Grace's behaviors present as neurodiverse, though this is never labeled in the text. The girl eventually learns "to see a place with new eyes," but underdeveloped subplots about her grandfather and her father's brother hamper Ebony-Grace's exploration of her second home. Even so, Zoboi (American Street) excels at resurrecting 1980s Harlem in her middle grade debut, expertly sprinkling in nostalgia-fueled references to break dancing, rap battles, and the rise of female MCs. Ages 10–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Aug.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.Review by School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 4–7—A story about imagination and trying to fit in, set in 1980s Harlem. Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet leaves her mother and beloved, ill grandfather in Alabama and touches down in busy New York City to visit her father. To cope with loud, crowded, and confusing surroundings, Ebony-Grace retreats into her imaginary outer space world, which she has created with her grandfather. Unfortunately, Ebony-Grace's peers are not interested in pretending to be space captains—not even her sometimes-friend, Bianca—and she is mocked. But Ebony-Grace continues to pretend that she is E-Grace Starfleet on a mission in No Joke City to defeat the Sonic King and rescue Captain Fleet. At the story's climax, Ebony-Grace steals an envelope of money from her father and inexplicably uses it to equip Bianca's Double Dutch crew with new clothes and an entrance fee to compete at the Apollo Theater, connecting these actions with her mission. This theft causes a rift between her father and uncle, and they come to blows. Short graphic panels depicting Ebony-Grace's eye-catching imaginary space world interrupt the story periodically to engage readers. Ebony-Grace's voice is both young and incredibly socially awkward; readers may spend the narrative waiting for a big reveal as to why she acts both paranoid and much younger than her chronological age while being unable to leave her "imagination location" to preserve any social grace. For example, Ebony-Grace often speaks into an imaginary communicator, has a running commentary about being on a space mission, blasts kids with an imaginary weapon on her wrists when she doesn't get her way, accuses her father of putting mind control poison in her food, and thinks that the loud sounds of the city are sonic booms. Young readers may also have trouble grasping the 1980s references, which seem more suited to an adult audience. VERDICT Recommended for libraries that have a strong Ibi Zoboi readership, though the audience will be different here.—Shannon O'Connor, Unami Middle School, Chalfont, PA Copyright 2019 School Library Journal.
In the summer of 1984, twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace of Huntsville, Alabama, visits her father in Harlem, where her fascination with outer space and science fiction interfere with her finding acceptance.Review by Publisher Summary 2
A National Book Award-finalist makes her middle grade debut with a moving story about 12-year-old Ebony-Grace, a girl whose a passion for all things outer space and science fiction leads her to a summertime visit with her father in Harlem that reveals it to have more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible. Simultaneous eBook.Review by Publisher Summary 3
National Book Award-finalist Ibi Zoboi makes her middle-grade debut with a moving story of a girl finding her place in a world that's changing at warp speed.Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction—especially Star Wars and Star Trek. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem. Harlem is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and Ebony-Grace’s 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 Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.A New York Times Bestseller