Written in sparse prose, SHARI GREEN’s “MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS” is touching without being full of angst. Macy McMillan is a typical sixth grader with one exception — she’s deaf. In a refreshing twist, this story doesn’t use Macy’s hearing as a main focal point. Instead, we are introduced to a pre-teen who is anxious about making and keeping friends, her mother’s wedding, a new step family, a school project, and oh, by the way, she also happens to be deaf. Green’s ability to relate the story through Macy’s eyes sets this book apart.
After Macy has a fit of temper at school she is redirected by her mother to help out a neighbor next door. Octogenarian Iris is going through her belongings in preparation for a move to a retirement community. Through hand written messages and a few signs, which work very well within the prose, Macy and Iris are able to communicate. Macy, who loves to garden, asks Iris if she’s named after the flower. Iris immediately responds by providing a book that states Iris is the Rainbow Goddess, and the story takes off from there. Many popular and favorite books are referenced, including “El Deafo” by Cece Bell.
Through their love of literature and their shared task of packing, Iris teaches Macy some of the lessons she’s learned throughout her life while sharing the cookies she so expertly bakes.
Iris’ humor, wisdom and the intensity with which she led her life burn through the pages. If you love something, you should love it extravagantly, she tells Macy, and we learn that Iris extravagantly loves to bake cookies.
Iris bakes encouragement into her offerings, letting friends and family know she is sharing her love, and herself, through what she has baked. “Chocolate chunk ... say, ‘You’ll be OK,’ Oatmeal say(s) ‘You’re strong enough … you can do this,’ Sugar and Spice whisper, ‘You are loved, you belong.’”
When the day finally arrives for Macy’s mother’s wedding, Iris goes missing. Macy interrupts the ceremony because she knows something is wrong with Iris. After some angst and with the help of her new stepfather, Iris is found wandering through the neighborhood, her memory having given her some trouble. She is picked up and taken to the ceremony where she shares her cookies with the assembled party.
As Macy’s life moves on, she is forced to face some hard truths. But with the help of Iris the Rainbow Goddess and her advice, her perspective changes. The “life is hard but friends can make it easier” message of this story comes through but is relayed subtly. Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, “Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess” is sure to appeal to anyone struggling with the challenges of friendships in the middle grades.
Tammie Benham is the Children’s Librarian for the Joplin Public Library.