Turning the Corner

Ruozhen Ma
Skylight Valley Creative Publishing (2022)
ISBN 979-8986913605
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (1/2023)

Ruozhen Ma is eleven and a half years old. This is her first book, and what great work she does. Hats off to an incredible debut. 

Ruozhen is a Chinese American fifth grader, entering her final year of elementary school in Austin, TX. “Turning the Corner” takes readers through her final year of elementary, which also happens to be her first year back in person after two years of online learning due to COVID-19. She begins by detailing all the changes that have occurred since the last time she was in person, including how all her classmates seem taller except for her, and how her younger brother is now at her school, and in person himself for the first time. As the book progresses readers experience Ruozhen’s final year through her eyes. We are taken on her family’s vacation to San Diego, we are introduced to her friends new and old, and we experience her overnight stay at The Outdoor School, the annual tradition for fifth graders to go away together for the weekend and camp, sort of a last hoorah before middle school. 

“Turning the Corner” is the perfect title for this read. It embraces the corner Ruozhen has turned in returning to school in person, the corner she is turning as she completes elementary school, and the one she turns as she decides to become an author and grows into the person she will become.

Readers will enjoy seeing the world through this talented eleven-and-a-half-year old’s eyes as she details her fears, anxieties, excitements, and life. Her point of view offers a refreshing glimpse of the world. Each chapter begins with a page of illustrations perfectly capturing what the pages that follow will hold for readers, I loved these pictures as they added to the experience of being in Ruozhen’s world and gave us a glimpse of what she was seeing as it unfolded.

At times funny, like when Ruozhen recounted the “once in a lifetime” sized ice cream cones and popsicles her mom handed out to her and her friends at their playdate, to other times serious, like when she was trying to determine her future career for class, “Turning a Corner” is a refreshing book for readers of all ages.

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