Marshmallow & Jordan

by Alina Chau (Author)

Marshmallow & Jordan
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Jordan's days as star player for her school's basketball team ended when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, she's still the team captain, but her competition days seem to be behind her...until an encounter with a mysterious elephant, who she names Marshmallow, helps Jordan discover a brand new sport.

Will water polo be the way for Jordan to continue her athletic dreams--or will it just come between Jordan and her best friends on the basketball team? And with the big tournament right around the corner, what secret is Marshmallow hiding?

Publisher's Weekly

Transportive watercolor panels, middle school sports drama, and a touch of legend combine in Chau’s fantastical narrative, following a wheelchair-using paraplegic athlete in Indonesia. Basketball team captain Jordan Winarta-named after Michael Jordan-loves coaching and practicing with her teammates, ever since an undisclosed accident two years ago has left her unable to play in official matches. Early in fall term at Kahawaii Multicultural School, Jordan hears crying on the playground, discovering an injured white baby elephant. Dubbed Marshmallow, the uncanny blue-eyed pachyderm becomes Jordan’s sidekick and team mascot. After Marshmallow digs Jordan a swimming pool, Jordan joins the water polo team on her basketball coach’s recommendation, though she struggles to sustain old friendships and impress newfound cynics ("Does she know this is a leg sport?" one asks) as she develops her skills. Predictably, Jordan excels; in a less foreseeable twist, Marshmallow’s identity reveals a link to water and solutions to drought in the Lesser Sunda agricultural region. Indonesian terms and customs abound amid the cast of varying cultures, religions, and skin tones, and a tropical palette balances energetic action sequences and quiet wordless imagery in this feel-good graphic novel with sequel potential. Back matter features an author’s note, visual development paintings, a glossary, and Indonesian food recommendations and facts. Ages 8-12. 

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

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7-Jordan is a young basketball star in Indonesia. She's named after Michael Jordan and even sports the number 23 on her jersey. An accident left her paralyzed from the waist down, and Jordan now uses a wheelchair. She's allowed to play with her team at practice but not at games, a restriction that Jordan and her teammates find frustrating. Post-practice one day, she finds a wounded white elephant who follows her home. Everyone is charmed by Marshmallow, as Jordan names the adorable creature. She prays to Lord Ganesh, a Hindu deity with the head of an elephant, to help Marshmallow get better. The elephant becomes something of a mascot to the team and helps Jordan figure out how much she loves swimming. Her coach recommends her for an open spot on the water polo team, but the girls don't immediately take to her and question her capability at the sport due to her disability. There's a bit of friendship drama, but nothing an honest conversation can't fix. Marshmallow and Jordan remain very close, even when it comes to light that Marshmallow might have an astonishing backstory. Vibrant shades and precise watercolors define Chau's gorgeous illustrations. Jordan and most of the other characters are brown; some students are white. The story's back matter contains a short glossary of Indonesian terms, food recommendations, and a note on how the climate crisis is affecting the area. VERDICT An enchanting graphic novel about a girl and her elephant with truly lovely artwork. Highly recommended.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


A sweet story greatly enhanced by whimsical, heartfelt art. (author’s note, concept art, glossary, Indonesian food and facts.

Alina Chau
Alina Chau is an award-winning filmmaker and artist. Her credits include the Emmy Award-winning Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, and numerous best-selling games. She illustrated The Nian Monster, which received the 2018 APALA Picture Book Honor. Her creative vision is strongly influenced by her Chinese-Indonesian upbringing. As a child, she was always fascinated by her grandmother's stories, colorful sarongs, and delicate wooden sculptures brought from Southeast Asia. The aroma of Indonesian food still brings back loving memories of sitting next to Grandma and drawing while Grandma prepared spices from scratch. Marshmallow & Jordan is inspired by the wonderful memories she and her grandmother shared.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
First Second
Publication date
October 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039150 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Special Needs
JUV032060 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Water Sports
JUV008080 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Fantasy
Library of Congress categories

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