The Magical Imperfect

by Chris Baron (Author)

The Magical Imperfect
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

For fans of Wonder, Chris Baron's The Magical Imperfect is an affecting middle grade story of two outcasts who become friends...

Etan has stopped speaking since his mother left. His father and grandfather don't know how to help him. His friends have given up on him. When Etan is asked to deliver a grocery order to the outskirts of town, he realizes he's at the home of Malia Agbayani, also known as the Creature.

Malia stopped going to school when her acute eczema spread to her face, and the bullying became too much. As the two become friends, other kids tease Etan for knowing the Creature. But he believes he might have a cure for Malia's condition, if only he can convince his family and hers to believe it too. Even if it works, will these two outcasts find where they fit in?

Publisher's Weekly

It’s autumn 1989 in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Giants have a chance at the World Series, and small earthquakes are occurring with increasing frequency. After his mother is admitted to a hospital ("The roads/ her thoughts take/ are too windy"), 12-year-old Etan, a budding artist, largely stops speaking. Since his father works construction all day, Etan spends afternoons with his Jewish grandfather, who immigrated from Prague in 1940; Etan watches him repair jewelry, listens to his musings on faith and the old days, and runs errands for the neighbors. One errand leads him to the home of Malia Agbayani, a solitary Filipina girl known cruelly among schoolchildren as "the creature" due to her acute eczema. Etan and Malia quickly bond; he admires her singing, she his artwork, and as their friendship deepens, they find solace and support-and, in the nearby forest, seek a magical cure for Malia’s skin. Telling Etan’s story in first-person verse, Baron (All of Me) creates a close-knit community of adults and authentic intergenerational relationships, but it is Etan’s honest and lovable voice, and its growing strength, that carries this tender novel. An extensive author’s note discusses the earthquake of October 1989 and the history of Angel Island. Ages 9-12. 

Copyright 2021 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-7-The whole town eagerly watches the 1989 baseball playoffs, but Etan is unable to fully engage. Since his mother left, Etan has neither the energy nor the will to speak. He spends most of his time with his grandfather in his jewelry shop on Main Street and with the shopkeepers who are accepting of his silence. Delivering a package to a house outside of town, Etan encounters Malia, known by kids as "the Creature" because of the eczema that covers her body. She invites him in to meet her grandmother, a refugee from the Philippines who befriended Etan's Jewish grandparents when they were escaping the horrors of the war in 1940. As this new friendship grows, Etan wants to help Malia's eczema get better with his grandfather's special clay, and to help her gain the confidence to sing at the local talent show. An earthquake that hits that day shakes everything up, but ultimately leads to Etan finding his voice, and Malia using hers to share her story. VERDICT Written in first person, this lyrical novel-in-verse invites readers into Etan's world, who will be drawn in by his very silence and how friendship relies on listening just as much as speaking.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


Starred Review
"Highly recommended, this historical novel satisfyingly blends empathy, a range of diversity, and youthful possibility with serendipity’s sparkle." -- Booklist, starred

Review quotes

Praise for All of Me:

A Southern California Independent Booksellers Association BESTSELLER!
BookRiot Best Children's Books about Kindness
Nerdy Book Club 2019 Award, Novels-in-Verse
A Literacious Favorite Middle-Grade Book of 2019
A National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Notable Book

If you have ever felt lost in the world, betrayed by your body or buoyed by a glimmer of hope or the glow of friendship, then All of Me could be your story, too.
-The Los Angeles Times

All of Me is for anyone who has been in search of a tribe, in love with a friend or in need of answers to questions that they can't bring themselves to ask. In other words, everybody.

— San Diego Union Tribune

Astute and stun-ning. All of Me is high-ly rec-om-mend-ed and offers an elo-quent and often-heart-break-ing glimpse into the expe-ri-ences of a lay-ered, com-plex and relat-able pro-tag-o-nist. Read-ers will sure-ly root for Ari as his sto-ry unfolds.—Jewish Book Council

[A] beautifully written and psychologically acute debut. Readers will be glad to accompany Ari on his journey to self-discovery. — Booklist magazine

Any reader who has felt like an outsider will be drawn to Ari's story, which means his audience should be legion.—The Horn Book Magazine

Baron's free-verse poetry is immediate and lyrical, allowing us access to Ari's thoughts and feelings in a way that prose would not. Baron's first-person narration allows the reader to experience Ari's pain and revelations, both of which are balanced with moments of grace and beauty....highly recommended for readers of all ages.—Bookpage

A unique perspective on weight loss and family told in beautiful, pitch perfect verse.—Happily Ever Elephants Blog

Tackling such difficult subjects as anti-Semitism, self-harm, and family instability with heart-breaking honesty and grace, All of Me deftly explores the complex layers of what it means to come of age. Baron's evocative verse beautifully expresses the depth of Ari's feelings; he will be a lifeline to anyone unsure of how they fit in the world.—Joy McCullogh, National Book Award nominated author of Blood Water Paint

I LOVE THIS BOOK. A moving and raw story that will stay with me.— Remy Lai, author of Pie in the Sky

In page after page of gorgeous verse, Chris Baron tells a story of hard-won healing, self acceptance, and hope.— Jarrett Lerner, author of EngiNerds and the Geeger the Robot series

"Chris Baron's gorgeous debut shines with strength, vulnerability, and humor. Ari's journey to self-acceptance is hopeful and inspiring."—Jen Petro-Roy, author of Good Enough: A Novel

Ari's story of love and loss and learning to live life on his own terms broke my heart and put it back together again. Beautiful and necessary! - Kelly deVos, author of Fat Girl on a Plane

Baron's writing is quick-witted and full of depth, allowing complicated characters to navigate growing up, identity and struggling with heavy things — not just body image and bullying but absent parents, self-harm, faith, first loves, interrupted friendships and more. The book is compelling, hopeful and a total page-turner.— The Voice of San Diego magazine

A powerful story, beautifully told. Highly recommended.—Middle Grade Minded Blog

Chris Baron
Chris Baron is a professor of English at San Diego City College. His first novel, All of Me, was a Southern California Independent Booksellers Association bestseller; A BookRiot Best Children's Book About Kindness; and an NCTE Notable Book. Newbery Medalist Matt de la Pena called it, "Beautifully written, brilliant, and necessary. Chris Baron lives in San Diego with his family.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Feiwel & Friends
Publication date
June 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV033020 - Juvenile Fiction | Religious | Jewish
JUV016190 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - 21st Century
JUV074000 - Juvenile Fiction | Diversity & Multicultural
Library of Congress categories

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