The Year I Flew Away

by Marie Arnold (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

In this magical middle-grade novel, ten-year-old Gabrielle finds out that America isn't the perfect place she imagined when she moves from Haiti to Brooklyn. With the help of a clever witch, Gabrielle becomes the perfect American -- but will she lose herself in the process? Perfect for fans of HURRICANE CHILD and FRONT DESK.

It's 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is excited to be moving from Haiti to America. Unfortunately, her parents won't be able to join her yet and she'll be living in a place called Brooklyn, New York, with relatives she has never met. She promises her parents that she will behave, but life proves to be difficult in the United States, from learning the language to always feeling like she doesn't fit in to being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to speak English perfectly and be "American," she makes the deal. But soon she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and, along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat), takes on the witch in an epic battle to try to reverse the spell.

Gabrielle is a funny and engaging heroine you won't soon forget in this sweet and lyrical novel.

Publishers Weekly

Balancing realistic and fantastical elements, Arnold's astute debut asks hard questions about what it means to be an American and who is considered one. Ten-year-old Gabrielle is facing the biggest challenge of her life as she moves from her small, close-knit Haitian village to New York City. When her parents' papers don't come through, she's sent alone to stay with an overworked aunt and uncle she's never met, a standoffish teen cousin, and young twins. Though Gabrielle is determined to do her best, fitting in turns out to be harder than she thought. She doesn't know English very well, and a mean girl bullies her relentlessly at school. Then a red door appears in her apartment building's lobby at midnight; behind it, a seemingly benign witch offers to grant her wish of fitting in--for a small price. Arnold depicts experiences of racism that people of color frequently face in the U.S. ("In America, your color walks in the door before you do. Always") while maintaining Gabrielle's sense of her own strength and writing an inclusive, sometimes fanciful supporting cast, including Rocky, a rat that wants to be a rabbit. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

★"This refreshing middle-grade story offers a 'new kid' narrative that defines the heart of what it means to be American in today's world. Arnold champions the beauty and complexity of Gabrielle's culture, which is intensified by Caribbean mysticism, an unlikely (yet highly influential) character, and the bustling backdrop of the City of Dreams. The beauty of this book lies in its depiction of not only the joy and excitement but the sacrifice and weight of immigration for young people. Arnold is thorough and intentional in fleshing out what it means for Gabrielle to support her family back in Haiti, which heightens the stakes of her choices, making readers even more deeply invested into her success. This book will shift the notion of what exactly it means to be Black, to be an immigrant, and to fit in and be accepted." —Booklist, STARRED review

★"Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging....Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives." —Kirkus, STARRED review

"Balancing realistic and fantastical elements, Arnold's astute debut asks hard questions about what it means to be an American and who is considered one." —Publishers Weekly

Marie Arnold
Marie Arnold was born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and came to America at the age of seven. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York alongside her extended family. Marie enjoys creating stories full of adventure, and wonder, which center on girls of color. When she's not writing, she's adding to her insanely long Netflix queue and trying not to order pizza. THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY is her debut middle grade novel. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Instagram: @mariarnoldbook
Twitter: MarieArnoldBook
Facebook: Marie Arnold - Children's Author

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
February 20, 2021
School Library Connection, 10/01/20

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