Newbery Verdict: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

20210522ma_1155Book: Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2018)
Author: Meg Medina
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Newbery Winner (2019)

Opening Lines of the Book…
To think, only yesterday I was in chancletas, sipping lemonade and watching my twin cousins run through the sprinkler in the yard. Now, I’m here in Mr. Patchett’s class, sweating in my polyester school blazer and waiting for this torture to be over.


Merci Suárez is having trouble at school. She doesn’t want to be a Sunshine Buddy to some new boy from Minnesota. And she has to deal the Queen Bee of her class, Edna. Merci struggles with being ostracized but eventually finds her own tribe. One of the best scenes has to do with a mummy, Edna, and a pair of scissors. (Totally reminded me of a very memorable happening in a movie my sister and I loved as children: The Trouble with Angels (1966). If you know the movie, you will know what I’m talking about!)

And then there’s trouble at home. Lolo, Merci’s beloved grandfather, is acting weird… forgetful. He refuses to come to Grands’ Day at school, and poor Merci has no clue why. Of course, as an adult, we can deduce that it’s some form of dementia. (No surprise when it turns out to be Alzheimer’s Disease; although, this IS a surprise to Merci.) I did love her connection to Lolo. There’s one particularly scary moment when Merci can’t find her grandfather on the beach but does find one of his shoes lying in the sand! Ay-ay-ay!

What I didn’t get is WHY the family thought it a good idea to keep the diagnosis from Merci. It’s not like she couldn’t see that her grandfather was acting weird. (I didn’t quite buy that part of the book.)

I also loved Merci’s big extended family. She lives in one of three little houses with her own family, her grandparents, and her aunt and twin cousins. I did like her older brother, Roli. He’s super-smart but also a super-slow-driving brother. As he learns to drive, it’s his job to get them to school. But Merci always seems to be late because Roli drives like an old man!

So, what did I think about the book as a whole?


I’ve been meaning to read this book since it won the Newbery back in 2019. I’ve taken it out of the library on at least 2-3 separate occasions only to return it before I could actually read it. But finally, I was able to get to this book. And I’m glad I did. Now, I’m looking forward to reading the next Merci Suárez adventure!


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday


10 thoughts on “Newbery Verdict: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

  1. Thanks for your honest review of Merci Suarez Changes Gears. I also read it and I loved it, though I didn’t have a problem with her family not telling her about her grandfather’s diagnose. I think that happens when the adults can’t handle things like that. Now I can’t wait to read the sequel.


  2. I still haven’t had a chance to read this book, but it sounds excellent! I hope you get a chance to try out the sequel soon. I do wonder why adults (at least in books) insist on keeping things secret from kids even though kids can obviously tell what is going on. Perhaps that is realistic—I haven’t had that experience with adults, but maybe most kids do. Thanks so much for the great review!


  3. Enjoyed your review! Yes, I read this book when it first came out! And, I just reviewed the sequel. But, the first book really gives you a great feel for the culture and how one large extended family lives in three houses next to each other — all involved in each other’s business and taking care of one another. There is so much love in the Suarez family. Great characters!


  4. I read this one then never reviewed it officially as my review slots were already filled. I liked the main character and her family. Will have to read this again. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.


  5. I keep hearing about Meg Medina books but I still haven’t read any of them. That’s an interesting challenge, to read the Newberry books: I always think they’ll be too serious and meaningful to enjoy! But I’ve been wrong about that before!


  6. Pingback: Review / Merci Suarez Can’t Dance | Of Maria Antonia

  7. Pingback: Newbery Verdict: Night Diary | Of Maria Antonia

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