Yolonda's Genius

by Carol Fenner

Paperback, 1997



Local notes

PB Fen


Aladdin (1997), Edition: Repackage, 211 pages


After moving from Chicago to Grand River, Michigan, fifth grader Yolonda, big and strong for her age, determines to prove that her younger brother is not a slow learner but a true musical genius.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

211 p.; 5.5 inches


0689813279 / 9780689813276



User reviews

LibraryThing member Elferkid
We just finished the book, Yolonda’s Genius by Carol Fenner. In this book, a fat, young, Black girl named Yolonda decides that her younger brother is an undiscovered genius.

Andrew is an outstanding harmonica player, and only 6 years old. The music seems to flow through him. He was a slow learner, very young, very shy, and very quiet. Because of this, their mama would not believe that he is a genius. Yolanda has to come up with a plan to show her mama, and world, Andrew’s genius.

In this book Carol Fenner showed how genius is not always obvious. Most people think of a genius as someone who is very academically smart. A math prodigy for example. Just because they are smart does not mean they are a genius. Unless this math prodigy has the ability to look at old math theories for example and create a whole new theory based on the old one, unless he can do that he is not a genius. Just knowing all the already known facts does not make you a genius.

People might look at Andrew, a small young boy who doesn’t even know how to read music yet, and they might not think of him as a genius. But he is. Yolanda is also a genius and she does not even recognize herself as one. She was able to look at the definition of a genius in a dictionary and recognize Andrew as a genius. She then also comes up with great ideas to get Andrew recognized. She made it happen. She pretended to be a lost child so that she could get back stage at the blues festival, then she got Andrew on stage and he played his harmonica. She is also a true genius.

Andrew reminds me of the other famous Rock and Roll artists that we learned about at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is an outsider, and not like everyone else. Other than Yolonda, no one understands him.

He was also very amazing at music. For example, he hears popping toast and turns it into a song. He has the ability to rearrange old material in a way never seen before. All the best Rock and Roll musicians have this ability. This means that you take old chords from old songs and mix them together to make a new song. That is what music is all about. Andrew is a child prodigy, and just like all Rock and Roll heroes, a true genius.
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LibraryThing member rpanek
Yolanda and her family are adjusting as they move from Chicago to a small suburb in Michigan. Yolanda’s brother, who appears to have a disability, is really gifted. She is determined to help him and bring out his true hidden talents. The themes throughout this book are change, family, weaknesses, gifts, growing up, music, and differences. I think students will enjoy this book. It is a Newbery book.… (more)
LibraryThing member laf
In this book, there was a girl named Yolanda who has a brother who supposedly is a genius on the harmonica, but no one knows this except her. Yolanda must get her brother noticed by everyone else. Throughout the book, Yolanda learns what it means to be a genius. It means to be smart, but also to be able to take old material and turn into something new. In a way, Yolanda is also a genius because of the way she encourages her brother to play the harmonica well again, and how she gets him noticed.

It wasn't my favorite book, but it might be good for anyone who likes realistic fiction.
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LibraryThing member LeHack
A single mother moves her children from the city to the suburbs to escape the usual city problems of drugs and violence. They find they have problems to overcome in the suburbs as well.
LibraryThing member ejoy13
This book is a realistic fiction story describing the life of an 11 year old girl,Yolanda, and her genius brother. Yolanda adventures to a new city where she struggles through a new life, however, her biggest worry is her younger brother whose harmonica never leaves his side. This book describes what it's like to be a genius as well as the strong love between siblings.… (more)
LibraryThing member Adrinnon
Yolanda's family moves from Chicago to Grand River, Michigan. Life is very different in Michigan. Her little brother Andrew is having trouble learning to read, and doesn't talk very much. However, Andrew loves to play his harmonica. Yolanda sees that her brother is truly gifted and is determined to convince the world he is a genius. GENRE: realistic fiction. USES: to teach people are gifted in different ways, sticking up for one another. MEDIA: n/a. CRITIQUE: I think the author does a great job of helping us understand Yolanda's perspective, and relating to the characters. The author also created characters with fun, memorable personalities, that make the story interesting and captures the readers attention.… (more)
LibraryThing member electrascaife
Yolanda is big for her age, but she knows how to handle herself when the 'whale' jokes happen. She's smart but surly, and she doesn't really have any friends. Her little brother is quiet and has trouble reading, but Yolanda becomes convinced that he is a genius with their father's old harmonica, so she sets out to create a scheme that will convince her mother he needs special schooling to foster his gift.
There were things I really appreciated about this book, but then there were others that I really didn't. From the start, I didn't at all like Yolanda's character; I assumed that the story was traveling along the 'closed-off and prone-to-roughness kid learns to open up and empathize' theme so prevalent in Newbery Honor books, but Yolanda remains fairly selfish, unsympathizing, and unsympathetic throughout. The ending was abrupt and too pat, with a last-minute attempt to make Yolanda seem as if she has changed (although not done well enough for me to buy it). There are also a few threads to the story that fail to connect by the end, which leaves the whole thing feeling incomplete. And then the narrator made some strange choices in the character-voice department, making one fifth-grade girl sound like an old diner waitress with a decades-long smoking habit. Strange.
All this is too bad, really, because of the good things here: Yolanda's little brother and his musical abilities are nicely painted, especially in contrast to his struggles with reading and speaking. It seems clear that he's on the autism scale, and although his mother doesn't seem to want to admit that, he finds a strong ally in a speech therapist at school, and that relationship (although not completely fleshed out) is nicely portrayed. Also, Yolanda's family is made up of her mother and her aunt, who are self-made black women from Chicago and are easily members of the upper-middle class there. What I love about this is that it's presented as no big deal, as in clearly achievable to the point that it's not something to make the focus of the story. Most Middle Grade books featuring black families seem to revolve around those families living in poor neighborhoods and struggling financially, and those stories are important, yes, but it's also important to show other possibilities and other realities to young readers of color. I want them to live in a world in which successful women of color are so commonplace that that idea takes a far back seat to the rest of the story in the books those young readers read. So I'd like to see more of this, but I'd also like this particular story to live up to this background setting.
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(45 ratings; 3.7)
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