Kindness seems to be the last thing on the minds of Piddy Sanchez’s classmates in Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Piddy has always gotten good grades and stayed out of trouble, but everything changes when she and her mother move to a new apartment and Piddy has to attend a new high school.
Out of the blue one day, a kid tells her, “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.” Piddy’s life becomes unrecognizable. She doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is, but soon Yaqui becomes the cause of Piddy’s dropping grades and dissolving self-confidence. Yaqui’s invisible but threatening presence seems to follow Piddy everywhere. On top of that, Piddy has to deal with her best friend moving away, questions about the identity of her father, and whether she has the courage to tell her mother and teachers about her bully.
Tiny glimpses of Yaqui Delgado’s life reveal absent parents in a tough neighborhood. But Piddy has little sympathy, especially after Yaqui jumps Piddy one night and leaves her badly scratched, bruised, and humiliated. Piddy is fighting for her safety and her future, and by the end of the book, she learns she needs help from her family and teachers to survive.
The stories of Piddy, August, and Chloe may be a bit painful to read, but stepping into their lives for a short time may help inspire the kindness we all need from each other.
Ruth Gilbert is a children’s librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Nancy Paulsen Books. 32 pages.
Written by R. J. Palacio
Knopf Books for Young Readers. 315 pages.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Written by Meg Medina
Candlewick Press. 260 pages.