Review by Booklist Review
When Antonio moves into 11-year-old Gina's neighborhood, she feels an immediate connection with the boy, who charms their classmates as well. Their young language arts teacher, who starts the year by writing "Who are you?" on the board, encourages reflection, imagination, and self-expression, while instilling a love of writing in her students. Later that year, when Antonio leaves suddenly, the loss is painful, particularly for Gina. The last chapter picks up her first-person story 20 years later, as she reflects on her experiences and tells what paths she, Antonio, and their former classmates have chosen. Written in short chapters with lively and sometimes amusing characterizations of adults as well as kids, this is a quiet book, but an engaging one. There's something haunting about Creech's portrayal of the increasingly writing-obsessed school class and the boy whose absence was so keenly felt at the time and whose presence was remembered years later. And on the last page, Gina wonders about the reader, asking, "Who are you? Who could you be?" A thought-provoking chapter book from start to finish.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Eleven-year-old Gina Filomena lives in Ohio with her mother and father. In the past, her colorful clothes and imaginative stories about Angel Lucia--both sent by her Italian nonna--have garnered unwanted attention at school, including bullying cries of "Gina gypsy." But her new teacher, Miss Lightstone, also wears colorful clothes and encourages her students to write with abandon. When Gina's friendly new neighbor, Antonio, joins her class, his "wide, gleaming, welcoming smile" and unusual observations ("There was a porcupine here--right here--eating licorice") enthrall her classmates. With the help of her eclectic teacher and perceptive Antonio, with whom she finds herself mentally connected, Gina begins to see the world differently, questioning who she is, who she might become, and what possibilities life holds for her and for her classmates. In short, vignette-like chapters, Newbery Medalist Creech (Walk Two Moons) expertly develops a relatable, amusingly foibled cast--including Gina's inquisitive schoolmates and demanding Italian relatives--and classroom verve conveyed via a scriptlike immediacy. Threaded with themes of friendship, acceptance, and self-discovery, Gina's story slowly unfolds, reminding readers that it's okay to imagine life's possibilities while still accepting its undeniable realities. Ages 8--12. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Sept.)
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Review by Horn Book Review
Gina Filomena, eleven, has been told that she has an overactive imagination. Few teachers or classmates have seen this as a gift until the new language arts teacher, Miss Lightstone, asks her students to think about the question "Who are you?" and later adds, "Who could you be?" With these two simple yet enormous questions, Gina begins to study and understand herself. Creech's (Love That Dog, rev. 11/01; Saving Winslow, rev. 11/18) newest novel is an invitation to the reader, as much as it is to Gina, to see the world through fresh eyes. What is her friend Antonio talking about when he says he saw a porcupine eating red licorice? How is it that a new kid with an openhearted smile can transform an entire classroom? This is a story about the small events of a child's life -- presents arrive from Gina's grandmother in Italy, neighbors move in and out, relatives visit -- but through it all Gina discovers, thanks to Miss Lightstone, that she is a writer. "At night I dreamed that I was writing my life. I would be writing rapidly -- long, detailed passages about places and people...When I woke, the feeling of that mystery, of that ability to create my life, lingered." Creech's prose is inviting, and the introspective reader will easily relate to Gina's observations of her world; but the book also holds appeal for a wider audience of readers who long for adults to challenge and stretch them as Miss Lightstone challenges her students. Maeve Visser Knoth September/October 2020 p.86(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A standout teacher and mysterious new student open the minds and notebooks of Gina Filomena and her fellow classmates. Eleven-year-old Gina has always felt different from the other students. She has a bright imagination and a vibrant wardrobe to match. In new neighbor Antonio she finds a friend whose wild mind seems connected with hers. At school, their English teacher, Miss Lightstone, poses questions that ask students to imagine both who they are and who they could be. Through her writing prompts, Gina, her classmates, and readers simultaneously discover that with most people there is far more than meets the eye. Newbery-winning Creech skillfully catches Gina at the point in life when a child's small world opens up into a much wider adult one. As Gina navigates this transition, the line between real and imagined is blurred. What is Antonio really seeing when he spins his tales? How much havoc is her Italian Nonna's fabled Angel Lucia actually responsible for? Gina's eventual revelations about how the lives of her family, neighbors, and classmates unfold flesh some of this out, but the story never feels wholly complete. Fans of Creech's hallmark beautiful writing won't be disappointed even if the story reads like an idea not fully realized. Main characters default to White; some names cue diversity in secondary characters. A shallow but engaging dip into a story and characters worthy of a deeper dive. (sources) (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.