New from Here by Kelly Yang

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary:  As the story opens, Knox’s parents are making the difficult decision to take the three kids to California from their home in Hong Kong, where the coronavirus is spreading.  His dad has to stay behind and work, while his mom can work remotely from the small house in the Bay Area that the family has inherited.  This proves impossible, and before long, Mom is frantically looking for a new job while Knox, his older brother Bowen, and his younger sister Lea adjust to American schools.  Knox’s ADHD has made school difficult in the past, but he loves his new teacher and makes a new friend right away.  Bowen has a harder time and often takes his frustrations out on his younger brother.  The kids pull together, though, to raise money to get their dad a plane ticket to join them.  In the background is the news of increasing COVID cases in the US, and the story ends in the spring of 2020, with everything, including school, closing down.  The future feels uncertain, but the challenges of the past few months have pulled the family together in a way that makes navigating those challenges seem possible.  Includes an author’s note about her family’s experiences that were the basis for this book.  368 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I started this book months ago and abandoned it after the first few pages; after seeing it on some best of 2022 lists, I decided to give it another chance and am so glad I did.  Despite the feeling of impending COVID doom, there is plenty of humor (I especially enjoyed the kids’ attempts to create a LinkedIn account for their dad) and some pretty touching family scenes, especially when the kids have to deal with anti-Asian racism.  

Cons:  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a hard time getting kids interested in reading anything that has to do with the pandemic.

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