Great Reads

Every year, the Library of Congress Center for the Book features a book from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the National Book Festival, creating an annual list of Great Reads. Each book is selected by the corresponding state’s Center for the Book affiliate and represents an aspect of the state’s literary culture, either addressing a topic of regional interest, taking place in the state, or written or illustrated by someone from or currently living in that state.

For 2019, the Virginia Center for the Book will feature Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Virginia author Meg Medina as the 2019 Great Reads selection for the Commonwealth.

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal, Merci Suárez Changes Gears tells the tale of a sixth grader as she navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between.

About the book: Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

About the author: Meg Medina is a Newbery and Pura Belpré award-winning author of picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. She is the author of Merci Suárez Changes Gears, which won the 2019 John Newbery medal and the 2018 Charlotte Huck honor. Her other books include:  Burn Baby Burn, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. Her picture books include Mango, Abuela and Me, and Tía Isa Wants a Car.

Meg’s works have been called “heartbreaking,” “lyrical” and “must haves for every collection.”  Her work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. Jacket illustration artwork copyright © 2018 by Joe Cepeda. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.