When Gilah notices a kid falling off his bike and a bus swerving too close, she’s the only one to get the bus driver to stop. The event sparks a friendship between Gilah and the bicyclist, Guillermo, a fellow middle-schooler and Salvadoran American poet who is new to the Washington, DC area.
Penned by two authors, the book alternates between Gilah’s and Guillermo’s narratives, offering insights into their lives individually and collectively. Written in prose, Gilah’s chapters chronicle her bat mitzvah preparation — where she plans to debut a special break dance — and her struggles and triumphs socializing as a neurodivergent person. Guillermo’s sections, written in verse, explore his bilingual family, his experiences at school, his family’s bakery, and, ultimately, his desire to showcase his poetry.
The structure and use of dual protagonists allow for well-rounded portrayals that bear witness to both characters and their families and cultures. The authors have seamlessly interwoven Gilah’s and Guillermo’s stories. Readers will be rooting for both characters, at Gilah’s bat mitzvah and beyond.
This is an empathetic and thoughtful middle-grade story of friendship and community that explores different ways of navigating the world.