Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz [in Booklist]
If the middle-grade Filipino American market had an audio representative, Amielynn Abellera would be the reigning voice. She’s already narrated two of Newbery Medal-winning Filipino American Erin Entrada Kelly’s three MG titles, and she’s quite the energetic cipher for debut novelist Marie Miranda Cruz’s feisty 12-year-old Nora.
Losing both her home and father to fire, Nora moves with her mother, Lorna, into Manila’s North Cemetery shantytown, where the living coexist with their dead. They survive mainly by doing other people’s laundry, but Lorna regularly gambles away their meager funds playing mahjong. When she disappears, Nora must rely on the kindness of strangers to get her mother back.
Abellera takes on an extensive supporting cast, facilely adjusting registers and accents to voice tweens as smoothly as grandmothers, boys as well as thugs. By opening the narration with the glossary (added at story’s end in print), Abellera establishes the tone for setting (Philippines) and language (Tagalog), immediately immersing listeners into Nora’s world. The interview at recording’s end between Cruz and editor Diana Pho adds welcome insight about story origin, inspiration, and context.
Review: “Media,” Booklist, March 1, 2019
Readers: Middle Grade