Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist- RED, WHITE, and WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Andrea Tyler.
RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca is the coming of age story about Reha, an Indian girl in a predominantly white community who is just trying to fit in and enjoy junior high school. At this point in her life her greatest challenge is how to find the balance between her two lives, the one she has with her Indian family and friends, and the one she has with her friends in school.
Reha’s life takes a turn however, when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly her priorities turn to getting over her fear of blood and fulfilling her mother’s dream of becoming a doctor. Now listening to fun music, going to the dance, befriending a cute boy and anything fun that occupied her mind before take a back seat as she becomes the serious, studious student her mother always wanted her to be.
Reha’s fear of blood becomes an important theme in this book. Reha is so bothered by blood that she faints or nearly faints every time she sees it, however bad blood is what is causing her mother to be ill. Overcoming the fear of blood will allow Reha to pursue her mother’s dream of medicine and possibly save her mother’s life with a bone marrow transplant.
As her mother’s illness progresses, Reha and her family learn that finding a way to reconcile her two lives is her best chance to heal and move forward with her life. Her family and friends from both lives all have valuable gifts that allow Reha to come to terms with the reality of her mother’s situation.
“I have one life.
That’s all any of us gets.
And I know that I will make my way
For all rivers lead to the same ocean,
We all look upon the same sky.
I will write my own story.
Amma’s life, the one she gave to me,
Is in my heart, my veins,
My blood.” (p. 209)
This heartbreaking, funny and lovely story, written in verse, will appeal to many who feel the pull between fitting in with friends at school and maintaining their own cultural identity. The setting is the 1980’s, but other than a few pop references to music and celebrities, it could take place in any time period.. It is the classic tale of someone who is just trying their best to navigate the world they live in and the circumstances that dictate their life’s trajectory.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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