My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich
Penguin Random House, August 2019
Grades 5 and up
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, by National Book Award Finalist Ibi Zoboi, explores the imaginative world of Ebony-Grace Norfleet. While Ebony goes to Harlem to live with her father during the summer of 1984, her mother helps Ebony’s beloved grandfather back home. Her grandfather was a former NASA engineer, one of the first to be integrated into the NASA program in the 1960s. Ebony has followed in his footsteps with her fascination with space, spaceships, and science fiction. As the summer progresses, Ebony tries to adjust to big city life, a totally different world for her, coming from Huntsville, Alabama. From the start, readers will feel pulled into Ebony’s world, the sounds and excitement of New York City, and the 1980s.
Ebony battles the struggles in her life by seeing and experiencing everything as science fiction (Star Trek, Star Wars, and Wonder Woman). She then relates these challenges to the adventures she had with her grandfather (Sonic Boom, Captain Fleet, and many more) back home. It’s a summer of change for Ebony as she learns to make new friends and tries to fit in. She finds a new love and respect for her father and her roots, and she gains more self-awareness. Ebony discovers she can trust others, and most importantly of all, she learns to believe in herself. By summer’s end, Ebony realizes that she has other special people in her life besides her grandfather and that no matter what, his love will always be with her.
Zoboi’s use of space as a metaphor is effective and expertly crafted, drawing the reader more deeply into Ebony’s story. Her voice is exceptional, heartfelt, and stunning. Zoboi paints a setting that is real, palpable, and rich with imagery. She captures what it means to be at crossroads – the time when childhood and young adulthood eclipse, where dreams and reality clash, and when learning to let go is often the hardest thing of all, but a necessary part of growing up. My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich is a beautifully rendered story of identity, family, friendship, loss, and acceptance.
Many thanks to local author, SCBWI-IL member, and guest reviewer, Elizabeth Brown. Brown is the author of Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler, illustrated by Aimee Sicuro, (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019) – a Junior Library Guild Selection. She has additional forthcoming picture books to release soon. Ms. Brown holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and she is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.