According to 12-year-old Nora, “A home does not have dead people inside it.”
Nora lives in the North Cemetery, Manila’s largest, with her mother, Lorna, after having lost her home and father to a disastrous fire. Now impoverished, Nora sells dried flower garlands by the cemetery gates and helps her mother wash laundry for others to get by. More than anything, Nora wishes to return to her old life and go back to school. Past hardships with family have made Nora reluctant to depend on others for help. But when her mother goes missing and she must confront a street tough named Tiger who may have the answers she needs, Nora learns to accept help from those in her community, including her spirited friend Jojo and his kind grandmother, Lola Mercy. Nora is an impressive young heroine whose extraordinary self-awareness helps her to bravely take on adult responsibilities to support herself and Lorna. Even when frustrated with her mother’s poor choices and conflicted about whom she can trust, she remains resilient. Nora’s story is a tribute to Filipino children, and readers of all backgrounds will find themselves immersed in the culture, learning bits of Tagalog and longing to savor the delicacies described throughout such as biko, champorado, and banana-que.
Cruz’s touching debut breathes life, beauty and everlasting hope into a place where danger lurks and the dead rest. (glossary, author’s note, activity guide) (Fiction. 8-13)