Macy, a deaf sixth-grader who attends a mainstream school with an interpreter, faces enormous challenges, as her mother will soon marry, necessitating a move to her new stepdad’s house.
Macy and her mother have always been a team of just two; adding Alan and his twin daughters is scary and distressing. Fortunately, Macy’s mom asks her to help their elderly next-door neighbor, Iris, aka “the rainbow goddess,” pack up her enormous collection of books in preparation for her—also unwelcome—move into assisted living. After a big fight with her BFF, Macy is deeply isolated, in need of a friend who can provide gentle, uncritical guidance. Although Iris, tenderly portrayed, initially doesn’t know any sign language, the pair communicates in writing that’s just as poetic as the free verse that Macy uses to relate her emerging story. The verse trails down the pages in narrow bands leaving plenty of white space. Even characters that are barely sketched emerge fully realized through the spare yet poignant narrative. With few racial markers beyond teacher Mr. Tanaka’s name and Iris’ blue eyes, the book appears to subscribe to the white default. When one twin endearingly makes the sign “sister” to Macy, it’s an affecting moment of deep promise.
Macy’s life lessons are realistic and illuminating; that she is deaf adds yet another dimension to an already powerful tale. (Fiction. 9-12)