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Lolo meets Grandpa Ray: A Rick and Merci Suárez Changes Gears Mash-up – plus swag!

By March 10, 2020March 14th, 2020No Comments

I’ve always loved birthdays, especially book birthdays. They’re even better when you share them with a friend. That’s what’s happening next month. Merci Suárez Changes Gears appears en rústica (paperback) with its beautiful new art on April 7. (Thanks again, Joe Cepeda!) 


Rick, the follow-up to George by Stonewall award-winner (and my book pal) Alex Gino, pubs on April 21. It has been starred in Kirkus, SLJ, PW, and Booklist!

Both our books take a close look at friendships, bullies, and beloved grandpas. Which got Alex and me thinking:  What would happen if two of our characters – Lolo and Grandpa Ray – met in person? We were sure they’d have a lot to say about their grandkids, memories and secrets, so we decided to… um… listen in. Check it out, and read about our pre-order swag below! 

The Scene:

Lake Worth Beach pier, in Lake Worth Beach, Florida.  It is February and the sand is crowded with tourists, young families and their children, who are making sand castles or skim-boarding at the shore. Overlooking the sand is the paved walkway with benches.

Two older gentlemen, LOLO (aka Leopoldo Suárez) and GRANDPA RAY (aka Raymond Ramsey) sit on either end of a bench along the walkway, facing the ocean. They are watching the waves and enjoying the roller bladers, the dogs racing for frisbees, the woot of the people fishing far out at the end of the pier. LOLO, white haired and wearing a Sol Painting, Inc. baseball cap, is digging inside a box of pastries labeled El Caribe bakery. He notices GRANDPA RAY eyeing the box.

Lolo: Ah. How rude of me. Would you like one, señor? The ones with the guava center are the best. They’re my daughter’s specialty.

Grandpa Ray: Guava, you say? I would be delighted. (Grandpa Ray takes a bite.) Wow, these are amazing. Your daughter is quite the talent.

Lolo: Ah, yes, Inés is a talent – a little impatient with her old father these days, but that’s how the young ones get. I can’t even drink a fruit shake without her nagging me about diabetes or some other ailment. Hmpf. Thank goodness for grandchildren. Now, that’s the real pleasure. 

Grandpa Ray: I know what you mean. What happened to our children? One day, they were telling me their deepest dreams and secrets, the next they’ve turned into downright strangers. I see my son every week and he treats me like some sort of work acquaintance. But the grandkids? They’re where it’s at. How many do you have?

Lolo: Cuatro!  Twins – Axel and Tomás – those belong to Inés – and let’s just say they keep her very busy. My son has two children. The oldest boy is Rolando – a brilliant boy, that one. Roli says he’s going to become a scientist. Can you imagine that?  And of course, there is Merci, who is 11. I shouldn’t say this. I love them all, but Merci is the one God sent specially for me. She has my heart, that little one. (He offers Grandpa Ray another pastelito from the box.) Plus she likes my jokes! How about you?  

Grandpa Ray: (He peers inside the box again and chooses one.) I’d be delighted. I’ve got three. One is in college – no wait, two now. Thomas is a senior, studying German, of all things, and Diane starts in two weeks. They’re fine kids, love them both. But I’ve got a Merci of my own, you might say. Rick is 11 too, and I see more of me in him than in my son and the other two combined. I see more of her too. (Grandpa Ray stares at the shoreline.) She loved these things. (He holds up a pastry.) 

Lolo:  Loved? Your wife has . . . 

Grandpa Ray: … Left us. Ten years ago now.

Lolo:  I’m sorry, señor. Ten years, ten minutes. It’s hard to lose the people we love. Let me ask you something. Do your grandchildren remember her? Even now that she is not with them? 

Grandpa Ray: Rose. My Rose. The older kids remember her a bit, I think. But Rick… she died a few months before he was born. She never got to meet him. And he never got to meet her. 

Lolo:  Well, perhaps you will be the person who can make those memories for Rick about the lovely Rosa. 

Grandpa Ray: How about you, if I may ask? Are you married?

Lolo: Married – oh yes. For a lifetime, since back in Cuba. 

Grandpa Ray: Good for you. What’s her name?

Lolo: (beaming a smile) My wife’s name is . . . it’s. . . my goodness, the sun feels hot today. 

Grandpa Ray: (notices Lolo’s redirection) Rose loved the Florida sun. It’s part of why I visit my brother every year. He lives in that building there. (Points to a large apartment building down the shoreline)

Lolo: Right by the water is perfect! Does Rick ever come with you? Merci is like a fish! I taught her to swim myself right here at this beach. I taught all of them. I still remember those days. They are still clear, thank God. I don’t swim much now, of course.

Grandpa Ray: I come solo. If I brought Rick, my son would want to come too, and while I love my boy, let’s just say I don’t need to spend a week in a hotel with him. To be honest, I haven’t gotten to spend much time with Rick. But when I get back to town, he’s going to start visiting me, and we’ll get to make some memories like the ones you’ve got with your Merci.

Lolo: That will be a good thing for you and your Rick, señor. But I will tell you a secret, if I may. Memories can be tricky, señor. Sometimes they don’t want to stay like they’re supposed to. Sometimes they leave us when we need them the most.

Grandpa Ray:  Ahhh. (nods knowingly) Whether it’s a blessing or a curse isn’t mine to say, but I remember my Rose every day so hard it hurts. And as for secrets, I know too well how much it can hurt to keep those.

Lolo: And what do you do with that sadness, señor? May I ask that? What do we do when secrets and memories – even fading ones – hurt us? 

Grandpa Ray: Oof. That’s a very good question. Some would recommend a pastry…

Lolo: Ha! I have us covered!  


Pre-order Swag!

We hope you enjoyed our mash-up as much as we did! (We worked on this together on a beautiful spring day on my porch.)  

Now, can you help us out with a pre-order? Here’s what’s in it for you: 

Pre-order *both* Merci Suárez Changes Gears in paperback AND Rick to receive a Merci sticker, a patch and a hand-painted postcard  by Alex – the latter made with watercolors, love, minimal skill, and book release nerves. 




PLUS, the first TEN submissions also get this awesome bike bag! 

Send proof of pre-order and your mailing address to to redeem. Meg will announce the ten lucky bike bag winners on April 6th.

Meg Medina

Author Meg Medina

I'm Meg Medina, author of libros for kids of all ages. I'm the 2019 Newbery medalist for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. I write strong girls, tough circumstances, and the connecting power of culture. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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