It has been twelve years since A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass won the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, but this book is just as important now as it was back then. A Mango Shaped Space follows a thirteen-year-old girl named Mia who has synesthesia, which means that she sees and hears words and numbers in color. Like many children with synesthesia, Mia does not realize that she is different from her peers until her synesthesia begins to give her trouble in school. Not only does this book focus on a rare form of diversity, it is a compelling story that shows Mia as a normal middle school girl who worries about first crushes, her family, and her cat. This book is a great example of an author who does not represent a certain type of diversity herself but is able to successfully provide representation for a whole population of children, those who were born with synesthesia.
Mango of A Mango Shaped Space is Mia’s cat, who she finds during her grandfather’s funeral and names Mango because of his wheezing due to a hurt lung and his meows being, to Mia, the color of mango. When Mia is busy on a path to self-discovery with her newly-recognized synesthesia and her first kiss, Mango goes missing. Mia’s colors go missing with Mango, and she relies on a boy who also has synesthesia to help her get them back.
During its thirteen years in existence, this book has helped many children and young adults realize that they have synesthesia, showed them that it is a gift, not a disability, and helped them find peers who share this gift as well as support in school and in life. Reviews from young people with synesthesia on Wendy Mass’s website praise this book for its accuracy and say that these young people are using it to help their friends and family understand how they see the world. This is something any type of diverse book could do, if written as expertly as A Mango Shaped Space. I recommend this book for children ages nine to thirteen, or to anyone who has a friend or family member with synesthesia.
– Rebecca Bentheim