Spring 2021 Kids Indie Next List
“Don’t mind me, I’m just over here crying. What an incredibly beautiful, intense read. I’m in awe of how much LaRocca manages to fit into so few words, from Reha’s different friendships to her family connections to all the wonderful retellings of Indian stories. Every single metaphor is perfect, from the moon to the different blood cells. I can see this book being a great tool for writing teachers as well as an inspiration for young readers to look to stories and poetry for comfort in difficult times. A treasure.”
— Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC
A heartbreakingly hopeful novel in verse about an Indian American girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia.
Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart.
Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.
Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.
From Indies Introduce author Rajani LaRocca comes a radiant story about the ties that bind and how to go on in the face of unthinkable loss. This is the perfect next read for fans of Jasmine Warga and Thanhhà Lại.
* A New England Book Award finalist *
About the Author
Rajani LaRocca's debut middle grade novel, Midsummer's Mayhem, was a Kirkus Best Book of 2019, an Indies Introduce selection, and an Indie Next pick. Rajani was born in India, immigrated to the U.S. when she was a baby, and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she practices medicine and lives outside Boston with her family. Visit her at www.rajanilarocca.com.
"This deeply memorable coming-of-age story weaves Indian mythology with the relatable modern story of Reha, as she grapples with identity, family, and what it means to truly be home."
— Joy McCullough, author of Blood Water Paint; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; and We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire
“I felt this novel in verse in my bones. An important book, it will change how young readers see their world. And that's the best kind of book to read at any age.”
— Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic, Briar Rose, and Mapping the Bones
"This is a sweet, gentle story about love and loss, individualism and community, friendship and family, belonging and longing to live up to one's dreams. In Reha, LaRocca has created a relatable protagonist who feels caught between two cultures, but ultimately finds her own way."
— Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home and A Time To Dance
"Red, White, and Whole is the lyrical and poignant journey of a first generation Indian American girl growing up in the eighties. LaRocca weaves together a beautiful mix of themes-- identity, belonging, love, devastating loss, and eighties pop music rendered in seamless verse. A book I wish I had growing up in the eighties!"
— Veera Hiranandani, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Night Diary
"Infused with science, 80s music, and the struggles and joys of navigating middle school when you live in two different worlds, Red, White, and Whole is delightfully real and achingly beautiful. Reha’s story grabbed my heart from the first pages and never let go."
— Kate Messner, author of Breakout and Chirp
“Truly, one of the most heart-expanding stories ever, filled with kindness, music, mythology, all of those things. But above all, here is a story of love, and the ways in which it transcends nationalities, age, science, and fear. In LaRocca’s gifted hands, her Reha shows us how to live in the world, even when it feels divided, even then.”
— Kathi Appelt, National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honor-winning author of The Underneath and Keeper
"This book is a marvel — at once so rich and so spare."
— Ali Benjamin, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Thing About Jellyfish and The Next Great Paulie Fink
"The seamless blend of ancient Indian folklore and modern western storytelling makes this winner a standout. Red, White, and Whole gets my vote."
— Nikki Grimes, author of Ordinary Hazards and Garvey's Choice
“LaRocca’s historical novel in verse takes the reader through Reha’s past and present, flowing as seamlessly as many of the songs often referred to within the poems. Readers will be changed by her story.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“LaRocca showcases the best of what verse can do, telling a story that is spare, direct and true, every word and idea placed with intentional care. A sensitive coming-of-age story with all the makings of a new middle grade classic.”
— BookPage (starred review)
“An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Brimming with warmth. An approachable account of negotiating identity and of struggling with loss.”
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Perfect for fans of Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga and Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton.”
— School Library Journal
“This verse novel weaves together complex narrative strands with sophistication. Give this emotionally powerful novel to immigrant, third-culture kids or anyone experiencing grief and loss.”
— Horn Book Magazine