Review of Shine On, Luz Véliz! by Rebecca Balcárcel

Shine On, Luz Véliz!

by Rebecca Balcárcel

Chronicle Books, 2022. 270 pages.
Review written January 6, 2023, from a library book
Starred Review
2023 Mathical Book Prize Winner, Grades 6-8

Shine On, Luz Véliz! has everything that’s right about a middle grade novel. You’ve got a kid with a serious setback in her life navigating friendships and family relationships and learning new skills and coming out on top.

Luz has always been a soccer star. She loves the way her Dad has always encouraged her, even coaching her team and helping her shine. Well, after an accident before the book begins, she can’t play soccer. Her soccer friends don’t even know what to say to her, and being a ball girl only makes her sad. Her Dad almost seems to be avoiding her.

Then a nice elderly neighbor plus an opportunity at school get Luz interested in Robotics. But because of the conflict with soccer, she’s a little behind the kids in her grade. Can she make up the difference and join them this year?

But as Luz is figuring this out, her parents spring a major life change on her. Her father has recently learned that he has a daughter in Guatemala, a couple years older than Luz. The girl’s mother never told him, but the mother recently died, and now their daughter needs a place to live. Luz is going to have to adjust to a sister she never asked for, and all the major changes in her life, on top of hardly knowing who she is without soccer in her life.

All of Luz’s emotions are portrayed really well, with some understandable lows and some highs that she works for. The relationship between the sisters has some snags, but ends up beautifully heart-warming.

I like the portrayal of coding in this book. It’s not explained in too much detail, but Luz works on a project that is realistic for a beginner while being very cool at the same time. There is enough about coding and its ties to math for this to be our grades 6-8 winner of the Mathical Book Prize.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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