Aniana del Mar Jumps In

Listening Library. Mar. 2023. 443p. $38. ISBN 9780593634721.
Gr 5-9–Mendez makes both her middle grade fiction and narrator debuts, reciting her verse novel comprised of “several poetic forms”—including haiku and tanka, and also concrete/shape poems (albeit the page might be better suited for appreciating “Turtle Shell,” “Fish Food,” as examples). Aniana and Papi’s “daddy-daughter dates” enable Aniana to secretly attend swim practice and meets without Mami knowing. Since losing her brother to drowning as children, Mami’s forbidden Aniana from the water, never mind that Coast Guard–employed Papi is seabound for weeks at a time. When a mysterious illness debilitates Aniana’s mobility, Mami insists she’s being punished for lying. Her diagnosis says otherwise: juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Aniana knows—supported by doctors—that swimming is her best medicine, physically and mentally. Improvement will require she boldly claim that del Mar—“of the sea”—moniker.
VERDICT Mendez reads rather than performs her girl-power story, but she ensures her characters are affectingly heard.

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