Friday, May 3, 2019

#MiddleGradeMay: My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

Okay, I cheated and finished this one up in April so that I would have something to post right away for #MiddleGradeMay. 

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi (Dutton, August 2019). Grades 5-8. Galley provided by publisher.


Ebony Grace would much rather be spending the summer at home with her granddaddy, one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA and the inspiration for her obsession with all things space, especially Star Trek and Star Wars. INSTEAD, she's been sent to another planet - Harlem - to stay with her dad while her mom takes care of something having to do with her granddaddy (no one will tell her what). E-Grace uses her imagination location to turn her summer trip into a mission for the starship Uhura, but the other kids in her neighborhood do NOT want to play along. 

Even Bianca, the girl who lives in her daddy's building and who has spent many hours playing space missions with her on previous visits, has changed. No longer interested in visiting the junkyard and building rockets, Bianca is jumping double dutch and breakdancing with her crew - other girls on their block who have all named themselves after ice cream flavors. So how to survive a summer on an alien planet completely surrounded by strange beings with ways you don't understand? Use your imagination location, stay true to yourself, and don't forget the prime directive. 

My thoughts:

Ibi Zoboi's middle grade debut is a story about an oddball girl who doesn't fit in with the other kids - E-Grace doesn't understand the stuff they're interested in and she has no desire to compromise herself to get along. This makes for a hard summer, a lonely summer. E-Grace is facing a lot of challenges - not only with the other kids but also with her family. She's been shipped up to a different state to spend the summer with a father she doesn't know too well who doesn't actually have a lot of time to be with her. All in the interest of getting her out of the way of whatever is happening with her grandfather. She's out of the loop in a way that breaks her heart but that's not atypical for kids. When tough stuff happens, sometimes the kids are just gotten out of the way to try to make life easier for everyone. 

All this is to say that I didn't always like Ebony-Grace, but I think that's the point. She's one of those kids who is a little TOO MUCH sometimes. But I don't think I'll ever forget her and I was definitely rooting for her the whole time.


I would hand this to readers who identified with or rooted for Sunny by Jason Reynolds - Sunny and Ebony-Grace are both quirky characters who march to the beat of their own drummers and aren't willing to conform to what others might want for them. 

And I would hand this to readers who enjoyed the strong sense of setting and capable girl leads of One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.