The First State of Being

HarperAudio. Mar. 2024. 504p. $21.99. ISBN 9780063337343.
Gr 3-5–Since voicing Kelly’s 2018 Newbery Medal-awarded Hello, Universe, prolific de Ocampo (who shares Kelly’s Filipino American heritage) continues as the author’s male voice of choice, notably channeling ages, genders, and backgrounds with confident ease. In August 1999, 12-year-old Michael shoplifts canned peaches to augment his Y2K stockpile. His overworked single mother (who loves peaches) thinks he still needs a babysitter—16-year-old Gibby who smells like strawberries. His only other friend is Mr. Mosley, their apartment complex’s maintenance manager. And then Ridge appears, asking for the date, wearing strange clothes, and speaking unfamiliar phrases. Michael and Gibby must figure out who he is, and then how to get him home. Kelly regularly interrupts her 1999 narrative with excerpts dating well into the future that de Ocampo imbues with a slight, lyrical accent, as if the English decades ahead might not be what we hear today.
VERDICT De Ocampo’s expert narration is also an encouraging choice for reluctant readers.

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