Book Birthday, Middle Grade Literature, Novels in Verse

Happy Book Birthday to The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron!

It’s the fall of 1989. 12 year old Etan loves rooting for the San Francisco Giants with his dad, drawing, and walking Buddy, his neighbor’s dog. Ever since his mom checked into a hospital to treat her mental illness, Etan has stopped speaking because she was the one person he could talk to about everything. He and her best friend Jordan have drifted apart and with his dad working a lot, Etan spends a lot of time at his grandfather’s jewelry shop who shares stories of immigrating from Prague to the United States to flee the Nazis.

One day, a neighbor and fellow shop owner, Mrs. Li, asks Etan to make a delivery to the home of Malia, a young Filipina girl living with severe eczema. Bullied because of her skin, Malia is now homeschooled. After Etan shares a drawing of her dragon mailbox with Malia, the two connect quickly. Etan feels comfortable talking with her and as they explore the redwoods near her house, Malia opens up about her health condition. After Etan is cut during an earthquake tremor, his grandfather applies a clay from the old world on his arm and sings something in Hebrew making the cut disappear. He wonders if this earthly material could cure Malia. What Etan has yet to realize though is “true friendship is the oldest and strongest form of medicine.”

Gorgeously written in verse from the point of view of Etan, The Magical Imperfect is a touching and hopeful story of family, friendship, and finding out who you are. The setting perfectly fits the plot, for throughout the story, small earthquakes occured emphasizing the uncertainty in both Etan’s and Malia’s lives. Would Etan’s mom come home? Would Malia skin heal? When the historic earthquake occurred right before the third game of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, my heart was racing and I couldn’t stop reading. And like Rajani LaRocca’s novel in verse, Red, White, and Whole, I loved being transported back to the 1980’s and cannot deny I visited YouTube to watch Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time video. Thanks to the author and MacMillan Children Publishing for sharing an eARC with me.

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