Monday, April 25, 2022

RED, WHITE AND WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca


Why read this book? 

The way the words are put together in this verse novel is so beautiful! If you like stories that make you feel a lot of emotion (and maybe learn a few things along the way), you’d enjoy this one. The main character in this story feels torn between the different sides of her life, and it made me think of different people in my own life who have moved from far away places to live in a completely different cultural environment. 

The emotions and challenges Reha faced when her mother developed cancer made me sad at times and I even cried, remembering my own mom. The words: “I have one life. That’s all any of us gets” especially resonated with me. I also enjoyed all the 80’s references, especially to the show Family Ties, which I watched when I was a kid.

Because this is a verse novel, reading the words goes fairly quickly (especially when you don’t want to put it down!). But I found this novel also encouraged me to think and reflect as I was reading. This is a book I’d definitely read again. In fact, I wanted to read it again right after I finished it!

Additional Resources: 

Visit Rajani LaRocca at her website and find a link to the novel's playlist

As a Book of the Month selection for the Anti-Defamation League, you can find their wonderful resource with activities related to the book themes, key words, discussion questions and extension activities.  For example, a literacy activity to choose one of the main characters in the book and create diary entries showing the character’s perspective. They also provide resources such as 6 Ways to Be an Ally 

Check out this interesting interview with Rajani LaRocca over at Reading Middle Grade.

Colby Sharp has a wonderful conversation with Rajana LaRocca where she talks about how her personal experiences inspired her novel, how she got interested in writing and what she hopes for her novel.

Summary from the publisher:

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”—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.

Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca was published by Quill Tree Books in 2021.

For more wonderful middle grade books, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday over at Greg Pattridge's blog.


  1. Verse novels are just starting to be something my students pick up. The 80s references in this were solid. My only quibble (and this is with ALL of #MGLit!) is that everyone should already be aware that we only have one life, and be a whole lot less surprised when people die.

  2. I don't usually read novels in verse, but I really enjoyed this one. Glad you enjoyed it too.

  3. Glad you featured today -- keep seeing this title! This sounds like a story that is meant to be read in verse -- so much more intimate. This book intrigues me because we adopted a 13-year-old boy from India in 1985, and school wasn't easy for him. But he adapted and is successful today! So I love to read stories like this one! Great interview with Rajani. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I've developed a soft spot for verse novels and this one sounds like it has all the feels. I've seen it around, now I know to pick it up. Thanks for the review and happy MMGM!

  5. I loved this book as well. I am a big fan of verse novels, and I thought this was one of the best I've read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. I don't read much verse either but this sounds a compelling and emotional read. Thanks for sharing it!

  7. I've heard such good things about this book. I need to read it!


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