First of all, I have to say if it hadn't been for the #WEneeddiversebooks hashtag, I would have never found about this adorable book. One of the whole points about the #Weneeddiversebooks hashtag was so that people like me could be introduced to more books that feature diverse characters beyond the "default". So wonderful authors like My fave author Ellen Oh and some new favorites like Lamar Giles, made the visibility of this type of awareness possible.
Where do I begin? First off, it's not really second nature for me to pick up Middle Grade books. I'm always afraid that the protagonists aren't written intelligent enough for kids to learn something, or better yet for me to learn something.Luckily, This wasn't one of those books.
The story revolves around two seventh graders, Alex and Bijou. Alex is born and bred in Brooklyn, NY, whereas Bijou is from Haiti. I guess you can say this book is one of those first love books because the story centers on the friendship between two kids who can grow to be something more.
The POV switched from both characters, which I loved!!!!I loved hearing from both Bijou and Alex. I was worried it would only be from the boys POV. But seeing as though I've read very few POV's from boys so far, Alex might just be my favorite.The author choose to spend the first 50 pages introducing Alex and the next 50 introducing Bijou. After that it alternates depending on the situation. But I loved how Bijou and Alex's POV's weren't dumbed down for who this book is marketed at, for readers between the ages of 8-12. Sometimes I even forgot that i was reading from the POV of 2 12 year olds.
I really loved that this wasn't a "race"book. Alex loved him some Bijou. I like how he didn't try to exoticize her, even though some of the boys tried to. He just liked her because she was a girl, a very pretty girl. Minorities, we hate the whole West Side Story-story, where people can't be together because of their races. It gets tiring! I don't think we live in a so called Post Racial Society like everyone thinks, but I do think race is a silly thing to keep people apart these days. I'm glad that was left out! This story was really about two friends who are probably falling in love for the first time.
I reallllllly related to Bijou in terms of culture. My parents are from the Caribbean(Cuba) so I know how Caribbean culture can seem really foreign to American kids. I think what made me pick up the book in the first place, ya know other than the cover, was that I haven't read many books featuring black girls that didn't have American parents. I feel extremely close to Haitian culture because my boyfriend of 7 years is Half Colombian/Half Haitian, so part of me picked this book up thinking, this author is probably goina get Haitian girls all wrong. But this book really impressed me. Bijou was so confident and didn't let anyone get her down even though many girls tried to.
And Alex, he was so rad. Here comes this young white boy who knows nothing about Haitian culture, He even made the mistake of calling her "Asian", which I've heard sooooo many people do growing up, who falls head over heels for this amazing Haitian girl. Alex just reminded me of a real twelve year old boy, he wasn't worried about sex.All he wanted to do was be friends with Bijou, be close to Bijou, be with Bijou. It was nice for a change to read about a girl crazy boy instead of a boy crazy girl. His voice was really realistic but I think the thing I liked most about him was his interest in her culture. Sometimes when you date inter-culturally, you find some people don't really care about the great things you grew up with because they never had customs like that of their own. So culture isn't a big deal to some Americans, because they solely identify with being American. I've dated many guys who weren't interested in my culture and guess what? We didn't work out because my culture is everything to me so if someone can't take an interest in that, how are you ever going to work as a couple?
I liked how diverse this book was, i mean it was set in Brooklyn, so it better have been diverse! Most of Alex's friends were people of color, which i thought was really cute. It made Alex seem really unknowledgeable about her culture because they seemed to know a little bit about it. His best friends were Japanese American(and thank god he didn't fit the stereotype of young asian boys) and Dominican American, which i was surprised about because I hardly read any Dominican characters in books.Just Mexican, which i don't have a problem with but Latino isn't an umbrella term for Mexican. And then one of the popular girls at their sister school(they went to a religious private school)was a black Dominican, cool right? This book scored really well in terms of diversity for me. If the market for this book is 5th through 8th graders, I'm glad to know that a young kid would read it seeing the world how it should appear to the whole world, Diverse.
Even though this book is a Middle Grade book, anyone who likes a cute love story especially an interracial story would really enjoy this book.If you saw A Bronx Tale and liked that movie, You would love A Song for Bijou.