FIC RHU (Reviewing “Operation Sisterhood”)

I’m finally back to reading and reviewing books! I took a long break after leaving my job, starting a new job, and launching a small business (I’m not even joking) and now that 2022 is here, I’m jumping back on the reading horse, so to speak.

My goals are to read new books in the month that they are released, trying to hit at least one middle grade and one young adult novel each month (and then just picking what looks interesting). My goals are to write at least once a week (likely Sunday nights) for the WHOLE YEAR (eek!).

The first book off the list for January 2022 was “Operation Sisterhood” by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

Cover image of “Operation Sisterhood”

In “Operation Sisterhood”, 11-year-old Bo, short for Tokunbo, and her mom (who she calls “Mum”) have always been each other’s everything – they relied on each other through thick and thin. But when her mom’s boyfriend, Bill, proposes marriage, Bo and her Mum leave their tiny 1-room apartment and move to a large Harlem brownstone that houses not just Bill and his daughter Sunday, but also identical twins, Lil and Lee, their parents, Hope and Charles, and a whole assortment of animals (chickens, cats, dogs, lizards, etc.). Thrust into instant sisterhood after being an only child for 11 years, Bo struggles to adapt to free-schooling, shared spaces, constant noise, and having to share her Mum with others. Bo must find herself and where she belongs in her new, vibrant “patchwork family”.

I felt like this novel was a love story to both New York City and Black girls everywhere. Rhuday-Perkovich fills this book with humor, Black history, and a whole lot of positivity and love. Even though Bo struggles to find herself and her role in her new family, she learns lessons about love, sisterhood, strength, and unapologetically being who you are along the way. While the book definitely falls on the younger side of middle grade readers (probably most appropriate for 4th-6th graders), it was lovely to read as a grown up!

3 Defects

  1. This book has a LOT of characters. For a younger reader, this may prove problematic, as tracking all of those characters can be difficult! While all the characters are lovely and “real”, some readers will struggle with the myriad of names and remembering how everyone is related.
  2. So many details! While this is ALSO one of my Delights about this book, the depth of detail in the description may be confusing for some readers who would like or need a faster paced read.
  3. There are many side stories/small climaxes on the way to the larger climax of the book. While this sometimes builds suspense, these side stories also slow the pace of the book. As a reader who prefers high action novels (I’m sorry, I just like fantasy/science fiction/dystopian novels…), this book felt a little “slow”, pace wise. I didn’t have cliff hanger moments with the title, or pieces of the story where I felt like I couldn’t put it down.

3 Delights

  1. This story discusses the Black Lives Matter movement, the importance of learning and knowing Black history and culture, and understanding African diaspora in a way that is appropriate for mid/upper elementary students. Bo’s blended family (and Bo’s family friends) has a wide range of cultural heritages and Rhuday-Perkovich depicts all she can with love and understanding. There is so much to be learned from the novel – I was looking up new songs, books, and historical figures as I read, learning parts of Black American and African history that I never touched before!
  2. This book is gentle. So often what I read is not (remember, fan of dystopian lit?). Sometimes it’s nice to have a book that doesn’t have swear words, jokes made by one character at the expense of another character, or any sort of violence. It would be easy to recommend this book to a teacher who is looking for a gentle social issues text!
  3. The writing is beautifully detailed, making the story feel rich and real. I can distinctly picture the family brownstone (inside and out) and its surrounding Harlem neighborhood. Rhuday-Perkovich doesn’t shy away from filling the page richly, and as an adult reader, this was really nice coming from a middle grade book (sometimes I find description lacking in lower level texts).

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