“Quick Pick” is a blog feature that makes it easy to pick your next book. It’s also a perfect way for librarians & other educators to learn about a book and who to recommend it to. Think of it as a condensed review highlighting a book’s major themes & why it’s worthy of a spot on your (or your student’s, library patron’s, or friend’s) TBR.
Author: Marie Miranda Cruz
Category: Middle Grade
Release date: October 2, 2018
Page count: 288
Goodreads Summary: “An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.
After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.
When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.
With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.”
- Homelessness: The cemetery Nora lives in is a home for an entire community of people who live in their family mausoleums (including some who have lived there for several generations). We see the difficult choices these families have to make and the daily struggle they have to stay alive.
- Friendship: Nora deeply misses her best friend, who she has not seen since her father’s death. When a chance encounter brings them back together, her friend tries to help Nora and connect her with resources. Nora also develops a strong friendship with Jojo, a 13 year-old boy who also lives in the cemetery. Cruz depicts friendship as an important part of Nora’s support system.
- Family: Nora’s family is complex and has changed drastically since her father’s death. She has many family members who have tried to help her & her mother but do not have the resources to do so. There are also conflicts with her extended family that has created further barriers for Nora. She develops “chosen” family members in the cemetery community who become like brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers to her.
- Community support: Many community members in and outside of the cemetery offer help to Nora. There are local outreach groups that go to the cemetery to provide free education for children, as well as other local church groups and more. The cemetery residents come together to exchange goods and services, like doing laundry in exchange for another person fetching water, or sharing an electric burner to cook.
- Grief & trauma: Nora is still dealing with the trauma of her father’s sudden death and the loss of their home. She has memories and flashbacks of the house fire that killed her father and struggles to move past her trauma in order to see a future for herself. She deeply misses her father, and her grief is made even more complex by the fact that she and her mother sleep beside her father’s tomb.
- Addiction: throughout the novel, Nora’s mom gambles and often loses all of their money. Nora develops a growing understanding that her mother has a gambling addiction that has been a long-term struggle and that her mother needs help. Nora’s mother is not depicted as a “bad” mom because of her addiction; Nora deeply loves and respects her mother but recognizes that she is stuck in a dangerous cycle.
- Own voices Filipinx representation, with a vibrant, authentic depiction of Filpinx culture and experiences
- Realistic look at poverty and disparity (Cruz doesn’t shy away from showing all of the hardships faced by those living in the cemetery)
- Shows different ways that children can seek support and resources, including family, neighbors, community organizations, and more
- Hopeful and uplifting, particularly in the way community, family, and friendship are portrayed in Nora’s life
- Focuses on the resiliency of human spirit. Nora is a brave girl who still believes that she and her mother can find happiness. She fights to maintain her hope and never gives up.
- Discusses social issues like homelessness, poverty, addiction, and more in a nuanced way. Cruz shows that these issues are complex, cyclical, and not black-and-white.
PERFECT FOR READERS WHO…
- Are looking for middle grade fiction set outside of the US
- Want to learn more about the community of the North Manila Cemetery
- Want a novel exploring class, poverty, and disparity
- Want to learn more about homelessness and see a different experience of it than what they may be exposed to traditionally
- Enjoy reading about friendship & family
- Appreciate strong, independent, and brave female main characters
AND FOR FANS OF