Cover of Merci Suarez Changes Gears

Learning from Merci: Award-winning novel changes hearts and minds

An article by School Library Journal, penned by contributing writer Kara Yorio, commemorates the success of recent Newbery Medal award-winner Meg Medina.

For those unfamiliar, Medina wrote the popular children’s book “Merci Suárez Changes Gears” which follows a sixth-grade girl through “dealing with growing up and changes at school and within her large immigrant family.” Medina is Cuban-American herself and grew up in New York City with a large, immigrant family; this book is very near and dear to her heart: “[Merci’s family is] a functional, beautiful family that’s flawed, and I think that is a universal appeal.”

The article discusses how this children’s book “is about how families work through changes, face problems together, and are rooted in love,” a message that all children can relate to.

As Medina received the news of her newest accolade, she felt overcome with emotion: “It’s a hard year to be Latino in this country, so to have a book affirmed about an immigrant experience and an immigrant family felt really poignant to me.”

Medina believes that her book speaks to a larger concern, especially affecting in light of recent news:

“But what I love about this story, in addition to that, is that it gives people a window into a healthy, functioning Latino family. We exist. Right now, the rhetoric and conversation around Latinos and immigrants is that they’re in some way dangerous, that they’re in some way broken, that they’re a drain, that they’re all these negative stereotypes that have nothing to do with the people I know and that I have loved over the course of my life. I worry for kids—Latino kids and non-Latino kids—who have this in the ether every day around the news and around the table. Those attitudes get internalized and they’re damaging. So, I’m writing in the face of that. I’m writing in opposition to that. I’m writing the truth that I know and laying it bare as honestly as I can and I think people see it. Or at least they saw it here in Merci.”

Many TWIN-CS schools expressed interest in obtaining books with diverse stories, characters, and backgrounds. “Merci Suárez Changes Gears” offers the diverse, socially-important narrative that we can all benefit from reading.


-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Assistant

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TWIN-CS advances the Catholic tradition of academic excellence by empowering Catholic schools to systematically transform from a monolingual to multilingual educational model in the service of vibrant culturally diverse populations.

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