Review of Maribel’s Year

Maribel’s Year Maribel’s Year
by Michelle Sterling; illus. by Sarah Gonzales
Primary    Tegen/HarperCollins    40 pp.
5/23    9780063114357    $19.99

Maribel shares her journey through her first year as a newcomer to the United States. This picture book begins by depicting a stark contrast of differences: the cold, isolating foreignness of her new home versus the warm, familiar, communal life Maribel left behind. Every new experience—making a friend, experiencing the changing seasons, going on her first bike ride—reminds Maribel that her father is still back in the Philippines, eight thousand miles away. As the year progresses and the weather grows warmer, the imagery between former home and new becomes less distinct; the yellow, green, and blue hues of the (U.S.) beach and (Philippine) bamboo forest complement one another. As summer nears its end and Maribel gets ready to start a new school year, she still dreams of reuniting with Papa. October means Maribel’s first Halloween, and November, her first Thanksgiving—old traditions are mixed with new, as Maribel and her mom make turkey, gravy, and ube pie. Papa finally arrives for the family’s first Christmas back together, and the year ends as it began, in the “snowy, quiet place,” but with a new feeling of belonging.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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