I usually only comment upon a book after I've finished it, but since I feel like I'm neglecting this blog this week, I'll make an exception.
Next to Mexico is a funny, touching, and realistic look at a friendship between two girls. Lylice ("rhymes with Phyllis) has been promoted from the fourth grade to the sixth grade. As you can imagine, skipping the fifth grade puts Lylice in a major social gap. Luckily, she quickly befriends Mexico Mendoza, a new student. A steady friendship is severely tested, and Lylice must make amends if she wishes to earn Mexico's friendship back.
Mexico's diabetes is a central part of this story; although juvenile diabetes is certainly not uncommon, it's difficult to find evenhanded stories centered around it. It's an important part of Mexico's life, but it doesn't define it. Neither does her Latino heritage; apart from a prejudiced remark from a classmates and descriptions of Mexico's aunt's cooking, Mexico's heritage is treated very matter-of-fact. A typical "sad little rich girl" character is included, but it's a sensitive and understanding secondary story line.
Next to Mexico is solidly middle grade fiction, perfect for girls that are just ready for YA books. It's an entertaining, sweet, and sensitive story.