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I Wanna Be Your Shoebox

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  177 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Because Yumi RuÍz-Hirsch has grandparents from Japan, Cuba, and Brooklyn, her mother calls her a poster child for the twenty-first century. Yumi would laugh if only her life wasn't getting as complicated as her heritage. All of a sudden she's starting eighth grade with a girl who collects tinfoil and a boy who dresses like a squid. Her mom's found a new boyfriend, and her ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by JodiG. for

Everybody has one perfect moment in time upon which they will someday look back and think, "that was when everything changed." For Yumi Ruíz-Hirsch, that moment is here.

Yumi lives in a perfect cross-blend of cultures and ethnicity that make her so identifiable to teenagers today. What is there in the world that can't be tackled by a part-Jewish, part-Cuban, part-Japanese, American girl? Plenty.

First of all, Yumi has just found out that her grandfather, Sa
Katie Bruce
Jun 22, 2009 Katie Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-fiction
Well-written with a super endearing main character. Yumi is part Cuban, part Japanese and part Russian Jew, but this book isn't really about's more to do with her relationships with her family, friends, and how the heck to save the school orchestra. Although I really liked this book, I have a feeling this may be one that appeals more to adults than to kids.
Jan 22, 2009 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
I am not a big fan of realistic fiction, but I enjoyed this one. When I finished though all I could think was, "this is the most well adjusted 13 year old around."
Dec 30, 2008 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandy by: Anna
Christina Garcia seems to have created the ultimate in non-didactic multicultural literature in the central character of her novel I Wanna Be Your Shoebox. Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch is part Cuban, part Japanese, and part Jewish. But she is also part musician, part surfer, and part historian. Yumi's eighth grade year seems to be more than a little filled up. Within the span of a few months, she has found out that her school will be cutting her beloved orchestra from its budget, her mother is remarrying, a ...more
May 09, 2009 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I was going to. It's about a multiracial girl (part Russian Jew, Japanese, Guatemalan, and Cuban) who's having a hard time in life. Her parents are divorced, her dad's depressed, her mom's got a new boyfriend, they're getting kicked out of their beachfront apartment, her grandfather is sick, one of her guy friends has a crush on her, and, to top it all off, the orchestra she plays in at school is getting cut. The author ably weaves these different thin ...more
E. Anderson
Aug 31, 2009 E. Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yumi's dad is half Japanese and half Jewish; her mom is Cuban. She is like no one she has ever met. But she fits in fine at school with her musician friends in the orchestra, which is all well and good, until the school announces that there is no longer a budget for the orchestra and it will be disbanded. To make things worse, Yumi's grandfather has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and her mother's boyfriend is cramping her style. Yumi, however, has a few plans. For one thing, if she is going ...more
Mar 15, 2010 meg rated it really liked it
this book is kind of the perfect little-bit-of-everything read. thirteen-year-old yumi ruíz-hirsch is part cuban, part japanese, part jewish, part punk rock, part classical, part surfer, part vegetarian, part activist, and part historian. what could be a didactic nod to multiculturalism and liberal ideals is so much more. it is about family and music and moving and divorce and friendship and crushes and death and coming of age. occasionally the narrative gets a little overwhelmed with all the di ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Morrigan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-read
"I wanna be your shoebox" is a wonderful book. The plot revolves around Yumi Ruiz-Hirsh, a twelve year olf that is half Cuban, quarter Jewish, quarter Japanese and some Guatemalan thrown in there. She is a surfer, plays the clarinet, loves Mozart, the Ramones and punk music and lives in California. Needless to say, she has an interesting background. Her parents are divorced and her mom is a somewhat famous writer and her father plays in a band and tunes piano as a side job.

Yumi visits her grandp
Mar 08, 2016 Kellean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch is the poster child for biracial children. Her mother is Cuban, while her father is half-Jewish and half-Japanese. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mother, who has a new boyfriend. Yumi worries about what any other 13-yr old girl would…school, boys, friends, orchestra, but has the added pressure of losing the apartment that she and her mom share. Add that to the fact that her school’s orchestra is losing funding, her dad is depressed, and her grandfather is dying, ...more
Marjorie Ingall
Apr 28, 2010 Marjorie Ingall rated it liked it
Sweet book about a girl from a super-multi-culti background with super-diverse interests (classical music! punk! surfing! family history!). Yumi's beloved dying paternal grandfather is a Brooklyn Jew; her grandmother's Japanese, and her family on her mom's side is Cuban. The super-crammed plot is about Yumi trying to save her school orchestra, cope with her depressed songwriter dad and about-to-remarry mom, deal with boys, wrap her brain around an impending move, process her grandfather's mortal ...more
Oksana  *Bookaholic*
How many time have reviews started out with, "this is a really good book" or "really nice writing". Yeah, simple words, but they really get the meaning. Any young-adult would be lucky to read this.
Yumi's grandfather Saul has cancer, and is ready to leave this world. But not until he tells his story. Yumi takes on the responsibility of listening to Saul's story every week. But she still has her own problems. Her dad can't publish a song, her mom has a serious boyfriend, she and her mom are movin
Yum I is a girl going through many changes and challenges. She just wants to stop & keep everything the same. That is not an option though so she takes her grandfather's advice and gets on with the business of living. The relationship she has with her grandfather is one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much. He shares a lot of what he believes like, "I'd rather live with uncertainty than believe easy answers, only to have something to believe in." (p 151) Yumi is Japanese, Jewish and Cub ...more
Jul 24, 2009 Heidi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: multi-cultural
Yumi is not your average teen. Her parents have been divorced for a while; her mom, a Cuban author, her dad, the punk rocking son of a Japanese mom and New York Jewish dad. Yumi's on a search to find out who she is: is she her heritage? is she a clarinet player? a surfer? a conductor? a daughter? a granddaughter? a traveler? a runaway? a friend or GIRLfriend? Find out along side Yumi as she listens to the stories of her dying grandfather's life, as she supports her dad's punk rock career, learns ...more
Feb 04, 2011 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
Thirteen-year-old Yumi fits the bill as a thoroughly modern, Southern California surfing, multi-cultural teen. She lives with her Cuban mom and sees her Japanese-Jewish dad often. He's a struggling punk-rock musician still waiting for his big break. Through talks with her grandfather, Yumi comes to some understanding about family issues. The music theme is continues with a story line around Yumi's orchestra (she plays the clarinet). The story lines tie up niecely in this humorous, yet thoughtful ...more
Apr 27, 2010 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yumi's family members are various kinds of unconventional, and she's not exactly ordinary herself: a preteen classical clarinetist and surfer who is learning about LIFE in big ways.

Nothing extraordinary here except the extraordinary ways "real people" are human and live life. And that's more than enough.

The writing moves smoothly from Yumi's Brooklyn-Jewish grandfather's tales of his life to Yumi's own struggles with her parents to conversations with her school friends, some passages reading lik
Well-done, quick read about a multicultural California girl and the changes she faces as she turns 13. Her mom is getting serious with a boyfriend, her grandpa is dying, and her school orchestra is being shut down! Might be too slow for some middle-schoolers (the parts of grandpa narrating the story of his life are great but maybe not for kids who love "ACTION") but hopefully the surfing and music stuff will keep them going through this one.
Oct 27, 2009 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young_adult
Even though this book doesn't have much of a plot, it hangs together anyway. The narrator is someone I want to get to know better, so I keep reading. Her life is interesting and believable--her parents are divorced, her dad is depressed, her school's orchestra is being dropped because of budget cuts, she likes a boy who isn't interested in her, etc.--but she's not living in a storybook world. It's very much twenty-first-century southern Cal. It works well.
Sunnyvale Librarian
Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch is getting ready to start eighth grade. That's enough. But the universe doesn't think so, so two different boys have asked her to the big dance. One is a good friend, and the other is a secret crush. Her school orchestra is being cut from the budget, her mother has a serious boyfriend, and her beloved grandfather Saul is dying. Who takes her to the dance? How can she save the orchestra? What about Jim and her mother? And finally, how can she say goodbye to Saul?
Jul 24, 2009 Angie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book to tie in with an oral history project.

Realistic fiction tied into some historical (all the stories her grandfather tells her). I do think anyone reading this would have to have at least some background knowledge of what it might "mean" to be a Russian Jew, Japanese (immediately post WWII), or Cuban to really understand some of it.

Which might leave kids out. But all in all, good book.
Jul 17, 2009 Carolyn is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
this book shares the viewpoint of Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch, her mother is cuban and her father is japanese on his maternal side and jewish on his paternal side.
This book covers the everyday life of Yumi along with her grandfather's reminisces as he fights cancer. The grandfather's viewpoint contains historical information which I enjoyed.
Feb 01, 2009 Sonja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very sweet story from an author I adore. Yumi is a junior high girl dealing with the news that her beloved grandfather is dying, her orchestra program has been canceled and needs saving, and her mother is planning to get married. Sometimes, your shoebox gets a little too full. I immediately encouraged my 6th-grade daughter to read it.
Jordan Funke
I loved the feel of this book. It was contemporary and memoir-ish at the same time. The relationship between the girl and her dying grandfather is precious and deals with death matter-of-factly. I loved the grandfather's tone and way of speaking, the way he jumps around in his memory as he tells his granddaughter his life story.
Jul 27, 2009 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess I'll add Yumi to the list of characters I've gotten to know this summer. The book was fun and light. There's something to be learned. I enjoyed the emphasis on family. Saul telling Yumi his life story and what that meant to him. And of course along the way Yumi learned a little something about herself.
Karla Navarro-valle
Nov 01, 2011 Karla Navarro-valle rated it really liked it
In this book,the character Yumi is strong because she goes through many changes in her life like her grandpa dying and her moving.She doesn't like this change.Yumi handles this kind of badly but survives the prblems.I would recommened this book to anybody because it can prbably relate to anybody.
May 13, 2012 Vicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tween
Yumi is a mixed bag of Cuban, Japanese, and Jewish. She loves music, her grandpa. This book takes us thru her 90+ year old grandpa's last year of life, as he tells his story to Yumi and encourages her to think about what you want to bring to the party (life). Great read!
This was one of the first books i ever intently read. Honestly, i read this book 6 years ago, and it somehow came into my memory now. I loved Yumi's grandfather's story and her awkward and emotional dad! All in all, it will stay in my childhood memories forever :)
One of the first I've ever read that deals with issues of being multi-racial and multi-religious - a more and more common experience, but grounded in a strong story, great characters and lots to make it a wonderful read!
May 06, 2011 Kelsi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
It took me a little but to get into the story but once I did I really enjoyed the relationship between Yumi and her grandfather.
Nov 02, 2009 Kristen rated it liked it
Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch is a clarinet-playing, punk-rock-loving surfer girl trying to keep her school's orchestra alive, and listening to her grandfather Saul's life story. Nice middle-school read.
Sep 22, 2011 Patrisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you r wondering, I have not put this book in read because it so awesome ive read 4 times. Read it.
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After working for Time Magazine as a researcher, reporter, and Miami bureau chief, García turned to writing fiction. Her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban (1992), received critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has since published her novels The Agüero Sisters (1997) and Monkey Hunting (2003), and has edited books of Cuban and other Latin American literature. Her fourth ...more
More about Cristina García...

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“Before you know it you'll be my age telling your own granddaughter the story of your life and you wanna make it an interesting one, don't you? You wanna be able to tell her some adventures, some excitements, some something. How you live your life, little one, is a gift for those who come after you, a kind of inheritance.” 19 likes
“Nobody is ready for death. If you ask Joe Blow on the street, he aint gonna tell you he thinks he'll live forever. But when the end is near you'll realize you've been believing that all along. It's like getting caught with your pants down. That's why you gotta live, little one. Yeah stop and smell them roses.” 6 likes
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