The Year I Flew Away

Clarion/Versify. Feb. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358272755.
Gr 3-6–After moving from a close-knit community in Haiti to Brooklyn to live with her uncle and his family, Gabrielle realizes that life in the United States is not the paradise that she was led to believe. Finding herself the target of taunts at school, Gabrielle is desperate to become a “real” American, and she succumbs to the overtures of a wily witch who offers to grant wishes in return for Gabrielle’s essence. Against the advice of her new friends Carmen (a human classmate) and Rocky (a talking rat), Gabrielle starts to use the wishes and discovers that her cultural identity is disappearing. Almost too late, she realizes her mistake, and she attempts to right the wrongs that her decisions caused. The story picks up in pace as Gabrielle gets more involved with the witch, and readers will find themselves unable to set the book down during the final chapters. The characters are well developed—even the school bully—and the prejudices that Gabrielle both witnesses and experiences are portrayed in a way that is frank and easy to understand. The interpersonal relationships and fantasy elements complement each other well, and Arnold navigates skillfully between the two. Gabrielle and her family are Black; her classmates and teachers come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
VERDICT A fantasy adventure combined with a loving portrayal of Haitian culture and immigrant experiences creates an action-packed story with a lot of heart.

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