A superstitious girl tries to fix her broken family before death catches her.
Ten-year-old Filipina Sabrina “Sab” Dulce believes all the superstitions her artist dad used to tell her before he and Mom split up. So, when she sees the Butterfly, a giant black omen of death, she knows she only has a week left to live. Determined to make the most of her last days, she convinces her American best friend, Pepper, a white girl, to help her reunite her family. Sab must uncover the truth behind the broken relationship between her college-age sister, Ate Nadine, and their father. Spying on her sister’s journalism work and adventuring across Manila, Sab discovers family secrets that change her forever. Villanueva’s debut is a beautiful #ownvoices middle-grade novel. Tough topics—the brutal war on drugs in the Philippines, family reconciliation, and recovery—are addressed, but warmth and humor, often in the vehicle of Sab’s pet duck, bring lightness to Sab’s story. The detailed writing offers a true look at life in Manila, with alluring descriptions of Filipino foods and landscape. The text is interlaced with Tagalog phrases and words, especially cultural honorifics. Sab’s father is now in a same-sex relationship with a man Sab considers Dad No. 2, while her mother’s boyfriend is Dad No. 3, details shared matter-of-factly and with love.
This immersive novel bursts with life. (Fiction. 8-12)