Friday, February 18, 2022

Middle-Grade Review: Marshmallow and Jordan

I've been hearing good things about the middle-grade graphic novel Marshmallow and Jordan by Alina Chau, and I finally had a chance to read it for myself. I enjoyed this charming, moving story of the challenges a newly-disabled girl faces and the unlikely ally she finds to support her.

Jordan was the captain--and star--of her championship middle-school basketball team in Indonesia. Then an accident left her wheelchair-bound. She seems remarkably well-adjusted, and her kind teammates still support her, while she watches their practices and games and sometimes even helps the coach or plays from her chair during practice. But Jordan misses being a full part of the team and competing. One day on her way home from school, she finds an injured white baby elephant. I guess elephants are common in Indonesia because Jordan doesn't seem surprised but helps the baby elephant back to her home so that her mother, a veterinarian, can help the injured animal. Her parents agree to let the elephant, whom Jordan has named Marshmallow, stay at their house while its leg heals. Wanting to pay back her kindness, Marshmallow mysteriously creates a pool in the backyard one night and the next day helps Jordan learn to swim without the use of her legs. Jordan loves the newfound freedom of being able to move in the pool! After a wonderful day of playing water basketball in the pool with her friends, Jordan joins the water polo team. Since she's entirely new to the game, her teammates aren't very welcoming at first and worry she could mess up their chances to make it to the finals this year. Jordan feels left out, by both old and new teammates, but she practices hard every day after school, putting in extra hours on her own, until her strength, stamina, and skills in the water improve. A crisis at the end of the school year is resolved in a very surprising way.

Sample: Jordan with her basketball team

Sample: Jordan takes Marshmallow home

As someone who is disabled by chronic illness--and had two young sons disabled by the same illness when they were very young (one is now recovered)--I can tell you with certainty that it is very rare to see a disabled child in a book for kids and adolescents. It's even more rare to see a disabled child who is a talented athlete. But this wonderful book is about more than just Jordan's disability. It's about friendship, family, and overcoming all kinds of challenges. I like that Jordan's challenges here are both related to her disability--not being able to play her favorite sport anymore--and entirely "normal" kinds of challenges that all kids face with friendship, acceptance, and trying to learn a new skill. There is also a touch of fantasy woven throughout the story, for extra fun. The gorgeous, colorful watercolor images help to tell the story and also to literally paint a full picture of what daily life in Indonesia is like (and some extras at the back add to that). Together, the pictures and text/dialogue tell a magical story of an ordinary girl in a different culture than most readers are familiar with, facing challenges that all kids can relate to.

365 pages, First Second

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Challenge

Diversity Challenge

Travel the World in Books - Indonesia 

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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  1. I love the sound of this book and the illustrations look fabulous.

    1. Really beautiful - guess you've seen a lot of great graphic novels lately!