|Clues to the universe|
Author: Li, Christina
Told from their different points of view, aspiring rocket scientist Ro and introverted artist Benji become science class partners and unlikely friends, together setting out to build a rocket and search for Benji's long-lost father using clues in his favorite comic books series.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.50
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 510524
Kirkus Reviews (11/15/20)
School Library Journal (00/01/21)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/01/21)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 01/01/2021 Gr 4–7—Twelve-year-olds Ro and Benji are both having a rough start to the school year. Ro's father recently died, and her mother can no longer afford her private school tuition. Transferring to a school where she knows no one proves difficult, and overhearing conversations of students trying to guess her biracial ethnicity (she is white and Chinese) is painful. Benji, who is white, is lonely and aimless because his best friend, Amir, moved across the country. When Ro and Benji begin working on a science fair project together, an unlikely friendship is formed. While the two are very different in terms of personality and interests, they bond over the shared experience of not having a father. The combination of Ro's aptitude for science and logic and Benji's artistic talents and laid-back personality results in a good team. Soon the two are working on more than a science fair project. They are helping each other fulfill a dream that will bring them closer to their absent fathers—building the rocket Ro and her dad were going to work on together and tracking down Benji's comic book creator father. Since the story is set in the 1980s, before use of the internet was widespread, finding Benji's father is no easy task. The novel feels contemporary, so the setting may be somewhat confusing for readers who don't understand the technological limitations. Ro and Benji alternate narration, which helps the reader see their evolving perspectives of each other and provides a mechanism for telling their backstories. The book would have benefited from a stronger distinction between the two voices, though a heading at the beginning of each chapter indicates which character is speaking. It is refreshing to see a strong friendship between female and male characters depicted in a middle grade novel; it's the authenticity of this relationship that drives the heart of the story. VERDICT The message of resilience, courage, and friendship will resonate widely with young readers. Themes touched on include grief, fears, bullying, and identity, making the work highly discussable and a good candidate for classroom use.—Juliet Morefield, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 12/01/2020 In 1980s Sacramento, two disparate seventh graders find themselves pulled into each other’s orbit. Ro, a science/space fanatic and excellent student, is adjusting to a new school and life without her recently deceased father. Benji, a talented artist but disinterested pupil, is preoccupied with a series of comics written by the father he never knew. A chance mix-up sparks a careful confidence between the two quiet kids, and their rapport grows to a place where they reveal their secrets: Ro plans to finish an enormous rocket she’d been constructing with her dad, and Benji seeks to reunite with his father. The pair join forces to see things through, all while navigating the maze of middle school. This sweet story tackles big subjects—bereavement, growing up in a mixed-race family, familial estrangement—with a light touch, grounding the quirky characters in warmth and humor. It’s impossible not to root for Ro and Benji as they discover the fun of imperfection, the wisdom that comes with failure, and the joy to be found in unexpected friendships. - Copyright 2020 Booklist.