Isabella for Real

illus. by LeUyen Pham. 208p. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544148468. POP
Gr 4–6—Life for Isabella Antonelli is as normal as being in an extended, multigenerational Italian American family can be. In fact, it's pretty much what most families are like. But the friends at her new school don't think so, mistakenly believing she has been born into privilege as the daughter of a wealthy contessa. Making matters worse, her cousin's home videos have become an online sensation, overrunning their entire block with paparazzi, news reporters, and the occasional hot dog stand cashing in on the fame. While she's ready to come clean about her mistaken identity, the school elections are coming up, so, with the help of some neighbors, Isabella devises an elaborate scheme to maintain the facade until after the elections. Things do not go as planned in this wacky tale of a middle school double life. For a generation used to sharing as much through social media as in person, one's online presence is a very relevant theme that will resonate well with audiences. The story's conflict, if at times far-fetched, is one that middle schoolers can easily relate to in their search for acceptance among peers while grappling with their own identity issues. Palatini has created a vibrant look at life in an eccentric family with a colorful cast of unique characters whose quirkiness never fails to delight. Pham's lively cartoon illustrations perfectly balance the energy, lending a lighthearted yet humorous air to the conflict.
VERDICT This fast-paced, fun read about the pressures of fitting in in our media-saturated culture is a solid addition to most middle grade collections.

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