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Allie, First at Last Hardcover – March 29, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—In this realistic middle grade novel, Cervantes introduces a Latina fifth grader, Alyssa, otherwise known as Allie, who is struggling to find her place and identity as the third of four siblings in a family full of successful, award-winning individuals. She considers herself a failure when compared to Harvard-bound Adriana; his soccer whiz older brother, Aiden; and his younger sister Ava, a TV commercial star. Yet this is only half of the family: Allie's mom is a news anchor, and her dad is a fireman. It seems that everyone has won trophies and completed "firsts"—even her great grandfather is famous as the only World War II recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor alive in the state. Fifth grade can be rough, filled with changing relationships and an intense self-centered focus. Allie tries, but often fails, to be understanding when a new friend's help on her science fair project is a disaster and former best friend Sarah chooses the same topic for the Kansas Trailblazer Contest. The first-person narrative captures the disquieting feelings that often accompany the preteen years, including the protagonist's insights on her language proficiency and efforts to make the right decisions. VERDICT This will appeal to middle grade girls, particularly for independent reading.—Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL
"A sweet middle-grade read that promotes compassion and empathy over competitiveness. (Fiction. 8-12)" -- Kirkus Review, Starred (Dec. 2015)
"Laced with Mexican-American language and culture, this realistic drama is filled with gentle humor, big lessons, and even bigger heart. Cervantes's (Gaby, Lost and Found) earnest story may inspire a few readers to reach for 'epic greatness' themselves, while reminding them that the 'real rewards you can't put on a shelf.' Ages 8-12." -- Publisher's Weekly (Dec. 2016)
A timely, touching and nuanced portrayal of real-life challenges experienced by
children in mixed-status families.”-- Kirkus Reviews
An emotionally compelling story.” School Library Journal
"A tender debut that is heartbreaking and heartwarming." -- Diana Lopez, author of
A timely and important story about immigration, deportation, and abandonment
wrapped in a warm-hearted tale that will appeal to all.” -- Sonia Manzano, Emmy
Award-winning actress who plays Maria” on Sesame Street and Pura Belpre Honor
Award-winning author of The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano.
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Top Customer Reviews
Allie Velasco is a fifth-grader trying her best to discover her identity and make her mark on the world around her. For Allie, that means being the best at something – not that she’s sure what that something is. While her siblings excel at acting, soccer, and community service, her mother has been voted Best News Anchor of the Year, and her great-grandfather is a war hero, Allie is keenly seeking out her niche and putting a lot of pressure on herself to “succeed.”
Frankly, I wish Allie, First at Last had existed when I was in fifth grade. Although it’s been a couple of decades since I experienced my own tween tribulations, it was almost therapeutic to revisit that stage of my life through Allie. And I’m certain there are plenty of young readers out there today who will relate to her as well. This book is sure to appeal to kids who are “finding themselves,” having friend problems, or feeling eclipsed by siblings.
But don’t go thinking that this book is all sadness and doubt! Angela Cervantes fills the pages with humor that’s sharp with hints of snark and sarcasm, but never mean. For example, Allie and her best friend write a song about her cat called “It’s Not Easy Being Fluffy.” I approve. Also, although Allie faces challenges and insecurities, she still demonstrates strength and self confidence by assertively confronting rude kids in her class, nurturing a loving relationship with her sister and bisabuelo, and demonstrating a deep, natural appreciation for her Mexican-American roots. A great role model indeed.
Sibling rivalry is a dominant theme--what middle school child wouldn't benefit from reading about that? But also there are tremendous examples of friend relationships and of cross-generational respect and love within a family. The author does a great job of creating an interesting story line to keep the reader engaged and then propelling the reader forward with nice pacing. Her touches of humor add so much to the reading experience.
This book would be an excellent starting point to engage a child in discussion with family. In a classroom situation it could stimulate expression of many viewpoints which might through discussion be sorted out in a non-threatening way.
Most of all, I found this book to be an enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it.