Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox

Happy Holidays!

I Wanna Be your Shoebox
by Cristina Garcia


IQ "How do you balance what happens to you against what you make happen? Are they both a kind of destiny? I think about what Saul's been telling me. That life is not just about the hand you're dealt, but what you do with it." pg. 126

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox
is quotable, "awesomesauce" (to quote Ah Yuan), funny with heart and pretty great. I only had a few problems with the novel.

Thirteen year old Yumi is Cuban, Japanese and Jewish. Her parents are divorced and although she lives with her mother, she is closest to her father's family. Her father is a piano tuner and dreams of making it big in the punk music world. Her father's father, Saul is Jewish and dying of cancer. He married Hirohito, a woman he met in Japan. Saul and Hirohito lived in Japan for many years and were prosperous there. Yumi asks Saul to tell her his story, so she can learn everything she can from him and about him before he dies (he's 92!). Yumi's world seems to be turning upside when on top of her grandfather dying, her Cuban (with a little Guatemalan mixed in) mother announces that she has a serious boyfriend and they are moving from L.A. to Napa. Oh and to top it all off, her school's orchestra program (Yumi plays the clarinet) is being cut off. It's going to be an eventful, stressful, funny, heartbreaking year.

My main problem with the novel was the slow moving plot. There aren't many twists and the climax is really slow to develop. I was starting to grow impatient, wanting a plan of action for Yumi on how to save her orchestra. Furthermore, some incidents were unresolved, as in we never learned anything else about them. They happened and that was that, no reactions from anyone or further elaboration (for example why did Yumi's parents get divorced?). Another problem was that some characters were flat. With such a leisurely moving plot, the characters should have been well developed. But the personalities of Yumi's Cuban family (including her mother) are not described with much depth and we know almost nothing about Jim, her mother's boyfriend. Yumi herself admits that she's closer to her Japanese-Jewish side, but she wants to learn more about her Cuban side. I would have liked to see her connect more with her Cuban grandparents and her mother's sister.

There was one main surprising twist to the book, and that was the romance. It's not a prevalent part of the book, which I liked, but it's there beneath the surface. A love triangle ensues and the end result took me by surprise, but was quite pleasing. Yumi is a great protagonist, stubborn, independent, loyal, a leader and true to her own heart. She takes charge of saving her school's orchestra, by deciding they should play punk songs. I would love to hear an orchestra playing the Sex Pistols, Bob Marley, the Ramones, the Clash and the Wailers! It was really sweet and I loved seeing Yumi's take charge attitude, she goes toe to toe with her school principal and she will have you cheering her on! She's one of my all-time favorite middle grade protagonists and I would love to see a YA novel about her because I'm sure she would be just as awesome when she's older. I loved the quirkiness of the orchestra, they are funny and thoroughly entertaining.

Saul's story is fascinating, with high points and low points and he teaches Yumi (and the reader) valuable lessons. he is always optimistic, keeps his sense of humor and is unafraid to die. He will have you laughing and he has characteristics that will remind you of your own grandparents. Hirohito also has an interesting story, although I wished we learned more about her background. I loved hearing about their life together in Japan, since it showed Japan in a thoughtful, different, positive light, Japan was a bustling, happening place and it was one of the best places to be for Americans (besides America).

The title I Wanna be Your Shoebox comes from a poem of the same name by Catherine Bowman. It's an awesome poem, and I'm including it at the bottom of this review. I Wanna Be Your Shoebox is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to all middle schoolers. Older teens may be a little more annoyed by the slow moving plot, however the quirky characters along with the big hearts displayed throughout the book, make this book endearing. 5th grade and up.

For those who celebrate Christmas, have a Merry Christmas (I will be reviewing Ash tomorrow, not sure when, but it's so beautiful I want to review it on Christmas!) :D For all those who don't celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful holiday season!!
I want to be your shoebox
I want to be your Fort Knox

I want to be your equinox

I want to be your paradox
I want to be your pair of socks
I want to be your paradise

I want to be your pack of lies
I want to be your snake eyes
I want to be your Mac with fries

I want to be your moonlit estuary
I want to be your day missing in February
I want to be your floating dock dairy

I want to be your pocket handkerchief
I want to be your mischief
I want to be your slow pitch

I want to be your fable without a moral
Under a table of black elm I want to be your Indiana morel
Casserole. Your drum roll. Your trompe l'oeil

I want to be your biscuits
I want to be your business
I want to be your beeswax

I want to be your milk money
I want to be your Texas Apiary honey
I want to be your Texas. Honey

I want to be your cheap hotel
I want to be your lipstick by Chanel
I want to be your secret passage

All written in Braille. I want to be
All the words you can't spell
I want to be your International

House of Pancakes. I want to be your reel after reel
Of rough takes. I want to be your Ouija board
I want to be your slum-lord. Hell

I want to be your made-to-order smorgasbord
I want to be your autobahn
I want to be your Audubon

I want to be your Chinese bug radical
I want to be your brand new set of radials
I want to be your old-time radio

I want to be your pro and your con
I want to be your Sunday morning ritual
(Demons be gone!) Your constitutional

Your habitual—
I want to be your Tinkertoy
Man, I want to be your best boy

I want to be your chauffeur
I want to be your chauf-
feur, your shofar, I want to be your go for

Your go far, your offer, your counter-offer
your two-by-four
I want to be your out and in door

I want to be your song: daily, nocturnal—
I want to be your nightingale
I want to be your dog's tail


  1. Can you imagine the great meals Yumi would have at home?!!!

    I love the poem!!! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  2. lol thinking back, I can definitely see what you mean by slow moving plot. Hmm, but I don't remember feeling that aspect detracted from my enjoyment of the novel... I think the part that really stood out for me about this novel was just Yumi's character, and because I liked her, I was willing to go through the novel's journey with her without thinking about what happens later.

  3. I loved this book and Yumi. I didn't want this book to move any faster. And the time with her grandfather, beautiful.

    Thanks for the poem.

  4. @rhapsody-You're so right, she probably had the most exquisite of meals!

    @Ah Yuan-I agree, I loved Yumi. She is really one of my all-time favorite heroines for younger readers.

    @Doret-The relationship between Yumi and Saul is beautiful. I was happy to find the poem and so I had to share it :) Thank you for the recommendation of thoe book, I'm so glad I read it!


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