Books

The Other Half of Happy stars Quijana, a half-Latina, half-Anglo seventh grader who does not speak Spanish, does not like Don Quixote, and is definitely not going to Guatemala for winter break! Join Quijana as she navigates life in the Guatemalan-American hyphen and discovers her missing half. Two-minute video book talk here. 🙂

JuniorLibraryGuild Selection, SpiritOfTexas List, TxInstituteOfLetters Best Middle Grade Book, ALA Notable Book, PuraBelpré Honor Book

Booklist, starred review School Library Journal, starred review

2019 Kansas NEA Reading Circle Commission: listed as Recommended
2020 Capitol Choices List of Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
2020 Rhode Island Latino Books Month Award Nominee
2020 Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year List
2020 Consortium for Latin American Studies Honorable Mention for the 2020 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Purchase at Barnes & Noble , Indiebound, Amazon.
Purchase Audiobook at Libro.fmSoundCloud, Audible, Rakuten Kobo.

Interviews, Reviews, Lists

  • Goodreads, where you can mark Want to Read, give stars, or review The Other Half of Happy.
  • School Library Journal logoSchool Library Journal’s starred review : “This is a title that will remain relevant long past its publication date. A must-have for all library collections.”
  • Radio interview on KTEP, the public radio station of El Paso, TX
  • The cover reveal on 100 Scope Notes — includes a bit about the background of the book!
  • Author interview on The Book Goat
  • Latinas Leyendo — book review, author interview: “one of the best and most compassionate depictions of autism I have ever read in fiction.”
  • Varietats blog book review: “I don’t usually read books for young children, but the plot of The Other Half of Happy intrigued me, let’s be honest, I couldn’t put it down!”
  • Gabi’s Books Reviews: “This was the first time I really got to see myself on the page.”
  • Metamorphoreader: “It’s amazing reading a book where the family isn’t broken or what triggers the plot. . . . The writing was easy to read, it flowed like water and that made me devour the book in just a couple days . . .  it sucks your attention and doesn’t let go.”
  • The Collegian, newspaper of Tarrant County College, interview and article  (text)
  • Latinx In Kid Lit interview with Rebecca (text)
  • Latinx in Kid Lit review : “Balcárcel combines the personal with the universal into a story that is likely to be felt deeply by preteens far beyond the Latinx community.”
  • Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup book review: “This is a fantastic story about growing up, accepting parts of your roots, and coming to terms with cultural differences. This is a great book for readers who love a good family-centered narrative.”
  • The Children’s Book Review: “This one is my latest reads and its language is pure poetry. Quijana is one-half Guatemalan, one-half American and lately she’s feeling that her whole world is made up of halves. Balcárcel has expertly depicted what it’s like living between two cultures and growing up inside them both. It’s so riveting it will speak to anyone who has ever made the mistake in believing that they didn’t belong somewhere. Balcárcel shows how we all belong in this world. It’s a stunning debut and I can’t wait for more from this author.”
  • Bookriot’s 20 Must-Read Children’s Books About Family: “the prose in this novel sings.”
  • That’s What She’s Reading Review:
    “Quijana’s voice hooked me from the opening, establishing herself as a strong, relatable, and authentic protagonist.. This is an absolutely stunning debut that begs to be read aloud and shared widely!”
  • MissusGonzo blog review: “a compelling story that teaches great life lessons.”
  • Story Schmoozing mmarroquinbooks.blogspot.com : interview
  • Librariel Book Adventures blog review: “The moment I opened this book I was completely entranced in the story . . . Engaging, informative, and powerful.”
  • Book Fidelity blog review: ” It is emotional and endearing, and readers of all cultures and identities should take the time to read Quijana’s story.”
  • Reading by Moonlight book review: “an expressive and melodic story that is recognizable and heartbreaking, humbling and triumphant, and explosive and tender. “
  • TCC News interview by Tarrant County College, Fort Worth, TX
  • Hall Ways Blog review: “It’s lyrical, it’s deep, it’s highly relevant, and most of all, it’s REAL. The characters all pop to life and become part of the readers’ extended friend or family group. We feel invested in these people and we FEEL for them.”
  • Latinidad List 2019 by Marcela Landres: Middle Grade Selection – The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel “Pitch-perfect depiction of the trials and tribulations of being bicultural not just in the US, but in middle grade.”
  • A Mighty Girl’s 2019 Books of the Year listing   “Lyrical and heartfelt, this poetic debut novel will speak to anyone who has felt like they live between the “categories” of our world.” Also: 60 Empowering Books Starring Latina Mighty Girls list and Love Through the Generations: 50 Books About Mighty Girls and Their Grandparents
  • Review posted on the blog of Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California, written by Louise Yu

 Quijana’s journey to understand herself better and how she fits between two cultures is authentic and relatable to readers of all backgrounds, and her language struggles will particularly hit home for some. With Rebecca Balcárcel’s lyrical language, Quijana’s voice feels both fresh and familiar. A beautiful coming of age story.” —Hena Khan, author of Amina’s Voice

Palabras photo

Along with pieces called “breathtaking” by Naomi Shihab Nye, these poems twirl their skirts as they explore bi-cultural identity, growing up, a young mother’s struggles, and the limits of language. Half Latina and half Anglo, the speaker worries about “black-topped boys with butterscotch skin” who whistle at her, but loves how flowers “explode into curls of crepe.”

Paperback published by Pecan Grove Press, 2009.

E-version available as free download here AND it includes a Teacher’s Guide at the back: Palabras in Each Fist

Enjoy four poems from a reading at Del Mar College in 2006. Now on YouTube here.

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