While I’m not usually a reader of middle-grade fiction, this debut novel came across my Facebook feed, as one of my cohorts from my MFA program was its editor! I bought it immediately and was so charmed by this adorable story.
What if A Fish follows Little Eddie Aguado, an eleven-year-old Colombian American who feels neither Colombian or American. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he comes across a fishing medal owned by his late-father that sets him on an adventure to not only find out about his Columbian heritage, but the importance of family, friendship, and belonging. Laced through with Eddie’s quest to learn how to fish like his Papa, Fajardo encapsulates the beauty and magic of Cartagena so vividly that, Pandemic aside, I wanted to book my ticket to see El Centro and take a swim off Cartagena’s coast. Because Little Eddie’s seeing his father’s homeland for the first time, both the magic and culture shock read honestly and believably on the page. Readers (like me) who may not know anything about Colombia or the Spanish language get to learn along with Eddie as he experiences his first taste of papaya and starts understanding Spanish words and phrases. As his half-brother and step-Abuela teach him about his late-father, Eddie is able to begin putting together the pieces that help him better understand himself.
Fajardo also doesn’t shy away from tackling the racism Little Eddie faces from his American classmates, the isolation he feels as he navigates the impending doom of middle school without his best friend, or discussing grief and death. One of the best parts of this story was the gentle honesty with which Fajardo explains Eddie’s budding realization about the the process of grief and what it means to miss the dead.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to any middle-grade readers who may be struggling with feeling like they don’t fit in.
Bingo Square: Debut