After her dad loses his job , Sonia Nadhammuni has to leave Community, the private school she has attended since she was very young. She starts 6th grade in the public school and has to figure out which group she wants to hang out with. She is half Indian and half Jewish so she is divided between the white alpha girls on the cheerleading squad or Alisha and the other black girls who sit at a different table in the cafeteria. As Sonia says, “For everything that reminds me of who I am, there’s always something reminding me of who I’m not.” Between the changing circumstances at school and at home, Sonia has a lot of think about.
There are a few things I really love about The Whole Story of Half a Girl. First, the author is a Montessori teacher! I didn’t know that before I started reading, but on the very first page of the novel, Sonia refers to her teacher at Community as “Jack.” Immediately, I jumped to the back of the book to read about the author and, sure enough, there was the Montessori connection. Most of the time, when a character calls their teacher by his or her first name, they are students in a Montessori school. By the way, I’m often asked if calling teachers by their first names weakens the respect students traditionally have for their teachers. Not at all. Respect is earned. It doesn’t come with a title.
Sonia feels so genuine – Hiranandani has clearly spent a lot of time with girls Sonia’s age. She wants to be cool. She wants to do the right thing. She cares what her family thinks one minute and lashes out at it the next. Most of all, she’s trying to figure out who her friends are. The Whole Story of Half a Girl is on Inly’s summer reading list, and I will recommend it to all of those 12 and 13-year-old girls who ask “do you have a book that is perfect for me right now?”
On a completely different note, if you’re local (Boston’s south shore), one of my favorite bookstores, Buttonwood Books and Toys, is holding their annual Coffee With The Authors on Tuesday, June 4. This year’s authors are Laurie Edwards (In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America), Amy Brill (The Movement of Stars) and Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop (The Why of Things.) For more information, here’s the link to Buttonwood’s web site: