Isabel in Bloom is an Inspiring Migration Story

Posted April 12, 2024 by Richetta in #ownvoices, Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Middle Grades / 1 Comment

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Isabel in Bloom is an Inspiring Migration Story

I received this book for free from TBR & Beyond Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Isabel in Bloom is an Inspiring Migration StoryIsabel in Bloom by Mae Respicio
Published by Random House Children's Books on April 9, 2024
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Emigration & Immigration, Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Emotions & Feelings, Juvenile Fiction / Stories in Verse
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover
Source: TBR & Beyond Tours
Buy on Bookshop

A girl discovers a connection between her home in the Philippines and her new home in the U.S. through a special garden in this middle grade novel that celebrates nourishment and growth.

Twelve-year-old Isabel is the new kid in her San Francisco middle school. It’s the first time in many years that she’ll be living with her mother again. Mama's job in the US allowed Isabel and her grandparents to live more comfortably in the Philippines, but now Isabel doesn't really know her own mother anymore.

Making new friends in a new city, a new country, is hard, but joining the gardening and cooking club at school means Isabel will begin to find her way, and maybe she too, will begin to bloom.

In this beautifully rendered novel-in-verse, Mae Respicio explores how growth can take many forms, offering both the challenges and joy of new beginnings.

Fitting in. Remembering home. Engaging with community. healing family relationships. This is what Isabel in Bloom by Mae Respicio embraces. This is a beautiful and positive novel-in-verse that will engage you and possibly inspire you to engage in your own community.

(Also, I’m a gardener, so I fell in love with the cover as soon as I saw it! It even inspired me to try a few new flowers in my garden!)

Isabel is from the Philippines, but her mother migrated to the United States before her to find employment. Isabel lives with her grandparents in the Philippines until her mother has established herself enough to bring her over to the United States. The story begins in the Philippines and transitions to California in the United States with Isabel’s big move to reunite with her mother.

She holds onto her memories of gardening and cooking with her grandparents, Lolo and Lola. This is what leads her to join the cooking club and to start the gardening club at her new school. She finds a connection to home with one of the trees that is actually native to the Philippines. This inspires her to clean up her school’s old garden, especially after she hears that the elders in the community used to enjoy it.

I loved the positivity in this story. A big move and reunification with a mother she rarely got to see is a tough situation for a 12 year old. But she is surrounded by loving, encouraging and positive characters from the people she is staying with in California to her teacher to the friends she makes at school. While there are conflicts that Isabel has to deal with, the community in her life outweighs them.

Learning With Ms. Cocoa

As an educator, there are a lot of topics to discuss with students in this book.

  • Mother-Daughter Relationships
  • Migration/Immigration of kids
  • Community
  • Relationships with Elders in the Community
  • Navigating new schools and making friends
  • Working on a hobby
  • Talk about the phrase “bloom where you are planted” with students.
  • You can also discuss how the book is divided into sections. How does that factor into the story being told?
  • What club do you think would bring kids and the community together?

Inspiration for writing:

  • Write poetry using the traditional Filipino format
  • Reference the author’s poetry garden section at the end of the book and choose a style to write a poem
  • There are also hundreds of opportunities to do write-alikes with the poems in the book.

About the Author:

Mae Respicio writes heart-filled middle grade novels including The House That Lou Built, which won an Asian Pacific American Libraries Association Honor Award in Children’s Literature, was an NPR Best Book, and was named to many “best of” and state reading lists, Any Day With You (out now), and How to Win A Slime War (out fall 2021).

Author Links:

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One response to “Isabel in Bloom is an Inspiring Migration Story

  1. Its kind of weird that on the Philippines it are mainly the women who’re sent out abroad to provide support for the families. In most other cultures it are the (young) men who’re doing the pioneering.

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