Clues to the universe

Christina Li

Book - 2021

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together. Benjamin Burns doesn't like science, but he can't get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he's thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way t...o contact him. Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn't he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place? As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 2021
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
292 pages ; 22 cm
Audience
Ages 8-12.
ISBN
9780063008885
0063008882
Main Author
Christina Li (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

In 1980s Sacramento, two disparate seventh graders find themselves pulled into each other's orbit. Ro, a science/space fanatic and excellent student, is adjusting to a new school and life without her recently deceased father. Benji, a talented artist but disinterested pupil, is preoccupied with a series of comics written by the father he never knew. A chance mix-up sparks a careful confidence between the two quiet kids, and their rapport grows to a place where they reveal their secrets: Ro plans to finish an enormous rocket she'd been constructing with her dad, and Benji seeks to reunite with his father. The pair join forces to see things through, all while navigating the maze of middle school. This sweet story tackles big subjects—bereavement, growing up in a mixed-race family, familial estrangement—with a light touch, grounding the quirky characters in warmth and humor. It's impossible not to root for Ro and Benji as they discover the fun of imperfection, the wisdom that comes with failure, and the joy to be found in unexpected friendships. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Debut author Li explores themes of bullying and cultural identity, volleying between two seventh grade narrators who, on the first day of school in 1984 Sacramento, mistakenly switch folders in science class. Budding scientist Ro, who is "exactly half Chinese, a quarter Scottish, and a quarter Irish," lives with her mother and dreams of sending a rocket to space to honor her late father. Benji, a talented white artist who's not fond of school, is obsessed with comics series Spacebound, which he's convinced is authored by his absentee father, whom he thinks is communicating with him through the story. After the swapped folders lead to a friendly bond, the pair strike a deal: Ro will help find Benji's dad if Benji helps Ro build a science fair–winning rocket. But with a bully in their class determined to thwart them both and their plan hitting roadblocks, their friendship suddenly seems anything but certain. Though the plot unfolds slowly into a predictable arc, alternating first-person chapters provide insight into each character's fears, worries, and hopes, creating two compelling, relatable protagonists who recognize the strengths in their differences and help each other forge new paths forward. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jessica Regel, Foundry Literary. (Jan.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4–7—Twelve-year-olds Ro and Benji are both having a rough start to the school year. Ro's father recently died, and her mother can no longer afford her private school tuition. Transferring to a school where she knows no one proves difficult, and overhearing conversations of students trying to guess her biracial ethnicity (she is white and Chinese) is painful. Benji, who is white, is lonely and aimless because his best friend, Amir, moved across the country. When Ro and Benji begin working on a science fair project together, an unlikely friendship is formed. While the two are very different in terms of personality and interests, they bond over the shared experience of not having a father. The combination of Ro's aptitude for science and logic and Benji's artistic talents and laid-back personality results in a good team. Soon the two are working on more than a science fair project. They are helping each other fulfill a dream that will bring them closer to their absent fathers—building the rocket Ro and her dad were going to work on together and tracking down Benji's comic book creator father. Since the story is set in the 1980s, before use of the internet was widespread, finding Benji's father is no easy task. The novel feels contemporary, so the setting may be somewhat confusing for readers who don't understand the technological limitations. Ro and Benji alternate narration, which helps the reader see their evolving perspectives of each other and provides a mechanism for telling their backstories. The book would have benefited from a stronger distinction between the two voices, though a heading at the beginning of each chapter indicates which character is speaking. It is refreshing to see a strong friendship between female and male characters depicted in a middle grade novel; it's the authenticity of this relationship that drives the heart of the story. VERDICT The message of resilience, courage, and friendship will resonate widely with young readers. Themes touched on include grief, fears, bullying, and identity, making the work highly discussable and a good candidate for classroom use.—Juliet Morefield, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Told from their different points of view, aspiring rocket scientist Ro and introverted artist Benji become science class partners and unlikely friends, together setting out to build a rocket and search for Benji's long-lost father using clues in his favorite comic books series.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

This stellar debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends, and Ro even figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.A Washington Post KidsPost Summer Book Club selection * A Junior Library Guild Selection * A Bank Street Best Book of the Year

Review by Publisher Summary 3

This stellar debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.Benjamin Burns doesn't like science, but he can't get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he's thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends, and Ro even figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn't he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.A Washington Post KidsPost Summer Book Club selection