Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Fresh New Face of Griselda

The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres. Grades 3-7. Little, Brown, 2019. 245 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.


Griselda's starting sixth grade and she is really struggling with how her life has changed over the summer. Her dad lost his business and their family lost their house. Now they've moved in to Nana's house, her dad is away in Los Angeles looking for work, and she has to share a room with her big sister who can't afford to go away to college like she planned. Griselda has to settle for the plainest (cheapest) back to school clothes, she has to get free lunch at school for the first time, and she's too embarrassed to tell her best friend Sophia about any of it.

Instead of going to college, Griselda's sister Maribel is selling Alma cosmetics and when Griselda tags along on a sales call, she learns about a contest the company is running for junior sales associates. If she can sell 500 tubes of lip gloss by the end of the year, she might win $5000. It wouldn't be enough to solve all their problems, but it might be a start. But it's a big task and one she's going to have to keep secret - Griselda's mom would never let her sell makeup. Can she do it? And if she can, will it be enough to help her family?

My thoughts:

Here's another heartfelt contemporary story about a plucky young girl and her family from author Jennifer Torres. One thing I love about this book is the way that it approaches changes in a family's financial situation and how that affects the young people in the family. I think socioeconomic class and struggle is a theme that's still not explored in children's literature to the extent that a lot of our families actually experience it. What Griselda wants more than anything is for everything to go back to the way it was - their old house, their old neighborhood, and caring about the things she used to care about before worrying about money started taking up so much of her brainspace.

Another theme I love in the book is the sister relationship between Griselda and Mirabel. There's a pretty big age difference between them, but they're thrust together now more than ever before. They're sharing a room and working together now, a big change from Mirabel's plans to go away to college and be on her own for the first time. Maribel is a great role model for Griselda - not only as a salesperson, but as a woman in her family, taking her future into her own hands as she saves up money to move out and attend college.

This is a sweet story that, again, reminds me of a Disney Channel movie in the best way possible. If you're already a fan of Jennifer Torres for her wonderful books Stef Soto, Taco Queen and Flor and Miranda Steal the Show, you'll love meeting Griselda and her family, too.


Readers looking for Latinx characters dealing with changes in their families might also enjoy Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (Candlewick, 2018). Merci is a scholarship student at her fancy school and when her grandfather begins acting strangely, no one in her family will tell her what is happening.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, 2018) is another #ownvoices novel about a girl helping her family out by taking on work. Mia helps her immigrant family run a motel in exchange for a place to live - while her parents clean rooms, Mia runs the front desk.

Readers looking for more stories dealing with socioeconomic class and changes in family situation might enjoy Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart (Delacorte, 2014). Benjamin enters sweepstakes and contests in hopes of helping his family avoid eviction. More books about families dealing with financial stresses include Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel & Friends, 2015) or How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 2007), both about families experiencing homelessness.

Readers interested in characters with entrepreneurial spirits may also enjoy The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (HMH, 2007). Siblings Evan and Jessie compete to see who can sell the most lemonade.