Call Me Maria
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Call Me Maria

3.8 10
by Judith Ortiz Cofer

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A new novel from the award-winning author of AN ISLAND LIKE YOU, winner of the Pura Belpre Award.

Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she


A new novel from the award-winning author of AN ISLAND LIKE YOU, winner of the Pura Belpre Award.

Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she struggles to lose her island accent, Maria does her best to find her place within the unfamiliar culture of the barrio. Finally, with the Spanglish of the barrio people ringing in her ears, she finds the poet within herself.

In lush prose and spare, evocative poetry, Cofer weaves a powerful novel, bursting with life and hope.

Editorial Reviews

With Call Me Maria, Judith Ortiz Cofer delivers a poignant story of a sixteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl trying to find her place in the barrio of New York. Maria has gone with her father as he returns to the place of his childhood leaving her mother behind for a temporary time. Maria's father is a superintendent and a jack-of-all- trades as he takes care of the needs of the tenants in the building. Maria accepts the responsibility of making their basement apartment into a home--a home where she sits from her desk doing schoolwork and looking up at the feet that walk down the sidewalk. Maria befriends Whoopie, who teaches her the way of the barrio and how to master Spanglish. When her mother does come to New York a year later, Maria realizes it is only for a visit and not to live. Though both parents want her, Maria decides to stay with her father because she has come to accept the life of the barrio. Maria's voice is a strength in this uniquely written novel as Cofer comfortably transitions between prose, letters, and poetry. 2004, Orchard Books, 127 pp., Ages young adult.
—Roger Caswell
Fifteen-year-old Maria is a Puerto Rican girl living in the New York barrio. She speaks Spanish, English, and is learning Spanglish. Some days she is Maria Alegre, but other days she is Maria Triste living out the battle between her island Puerto Rican mother and her mainland Puerto Rican father. Her mother loves the island with its beaches and sunshine; her father loves his hometown New York-its street life, its pavement, its promise. When he leaves Puerto Rico to return to New York, Maria chooses to go with him, to look after him and to have an American education. It is a decision with sacrifice but she sticks to it. Using a pastiche of poems, letters, and pensamientos, Maria shares her memories, her feelings and her poetically expressed impressions of the world around her. She deftly depicts the characters populating her universe-the people in her building and on the street, her teachers, her family, her free-spirited girlfriend Whoopee Dominquez, her impressionable neighbor Uma, and the fifth-floor Papi-lindo, the Latin lover-in -raining who devastates girls with his charm. This short book is full of lyrical writing, memorable portraits, deep sentiment, and acute observations about being a daughter, a teenager, an immigrant, an outsider, a seeker of beauty, a user of language, and the creator of your own identity. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Orchard, 127p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Tina Frolund
Children's Literature
In a collage of prose pieces, letters home to Mami, and free-verse poetry, fifteen-year-old María shares her first year in the barrio world of New York away from her island world of Puerto Rico. Sometimes she is María Alegre (happy María); sometimes she is María Triste (sad María); sometimes she misses the tropical warmth and light of the island she has left behind; sometimes she welcomes the energy and excitement of her new life; sometimes she speaks in English, sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in her new third language—Spanglish. Cofer sensitively captures the experience of being caught between two worlds, dislocated and disoriented, and yet enriched by being able to draw on the resources of both old and new—especially for budding poet María, every new word learned in all her languages that she can add to her treasury of poetic materials. The novel is less of a plot-driven story than a kaleidoscope of moments captured throughout María's year: a friend's disenchantment with first love; a kindly teacher's encouragement of her poetic gifts; a visit from her grandmother, who leaves behind wonderfully funny comments on her visit to the Guggenheim and a performance of Cats: "I will never shed a tear for a cat, no matter how tragic their lives may be." A delicately wrought tribute to multi-lingualism and multi-culturalism. 2004, Orchard Books, Ages 12 up.
—Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Through a mixture of poems, letters, and prose, Mar'a gradually reveals herself as a true student of language and life. Her family has decided that she and her father will leave her mother in Puerto Rico and make a home for themselves in a New York City barrio. The vibrancy of her life is reflected in her growing friendships with Whoopee and Uma, two girls in her building, where her father is el Super. Eventually, she becomes trilingual, speaking English, Spanish, and "Spanglish," and through her words, Mar'a creates a rich portrait of a neighborhood that nurtures its own. A slight plot is woven in regarding the conflict over island versus city life, and which girl the handsome papi-lindo on the fifth floor will choose to flirt with. In both cases, there is beauty to experience on the surface, but one must look deeper to find true value. Understated but with a brilliant combination of all the right words to convey events, Cofer aptly relates the complexities of Mar'a's two homes, her parents' lives, and the difficulty of her choice between them. Particularly good for immigrants and second-generation readers, this is a quietly appealing portrayal of a Latina hija that many libraries will find valuable.-Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This affecting mix of poetry and prose follows the life of a 13-year-old Puerto Rican girl who leaves her island and mother to live with her father in New York City. Maria loves Puerto Rico and has a close relationship with her mother, but wants to go to a good American college. While she misses all she's left, she's fascinated by the barrio, her father's home, by its personalities and its own language, "Spanglish." Alternating between joy and sadness, she faces a final decision when her mother visits, and announces that she's divorcing Maria's father. Cofer follows up her wonderful An Island Like You (1996) with another lilting and ultimately uplifting examination and celebration of the life of Hispanic immigrants in America. It's a lovely work that should appeal not only to young Hispanic readers, but also to the general reader. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Judith Ortiz Cofer is an award-winning author known for her stories about coming-of-age experiences in the barrio and her writings about the cultural conflicts of immigrants. She is the author of many distinguished titles for young adults such as, CALL ME MARIA, THE MEANING OF CONSEULO, SILENT DANCING: A PARTIAL REMEMBERANCE OD A PUERTO RICAN CHILDHOOD, and THE LINE IN THE SUN. She lives in Georgia where she is the Regents’ and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.

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3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Call Me an awesome book to read...It would be a really good book to those who like poetry and prose. I enjoyed really the book!
NikyLula More than 1 year ago
In my class the students get engaged and relate to Maria. Excellent book!
Octoberbird More than 1 year ago
Judith Ortiz Cofer did a magnificent job of mixing poetry and prose. I Read it again and again, and it made me feel as if I know Maria in real life. Great book about searching for your identity and expressing yourself through verse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Call Me Maria" by Judith Ortiz Cofer was published by Scholastic, Inc on July 28, 2006 in New York, NY. I enjoyed reading about the inspirational yet challenging journey of the main character, Maria. Maria is a young girl raised by her mother and father on the island of Puerto Rico. However, her father was raised in New York and has longed to go back to his homeland. Maria's mother loves her island and insists on staying there. It comes about that her father will be moving to New York for a while and Maria has to decide if she wants to accompany him or stay in Puerto Rico with her mother. Maria worries about her dad going to the United States by himself so she decides she will go with him. When they arrive in the U.S, it is not how Maria imagined it to be. Maria and her father can only afford to live in a small basement apartment with only one window above Maria's desk where she watches people's feet scurry by on the sidewalk. She feels like an outsider to this new world, but her father feels like he is back at home. She is able to make some friends that live in her apartment building including her new best friend Whoopee which helps her a little bit. Maria's first language is Spanish, but her mother had been teaching her English so that she will be able to get into college in a few years. However, many people in the "barrio" speak "Spanglish" including Maria's father. Maria considers this a third language that she wants to pick up. In the mean time she writes letters back and forth to her mother to keep practicing her proper English. Some of the story is told through letters, poems, or Maria's point of view. I enjoyed this book because it told about a young girls first experience in the United States and how scary and unfamiliar it was to her. Even though she is thrown in this hard situation she still aspires to be like her mother and father, carrying two backgrounds, languages, and histories. She says. "I will break through the concrete and reach for the sun like the fist flower of the spring." When Maria said this, she is describing how she wants to come out of this experience living in the barrio and reach for the stars and become everything she wants to be. Nothing will hold her back but only make her stronger. This book taught me to go out and learn new things and go to new places. Also to never let anything hold me back and that things that make people different make them special in their own way. I do recommend people to read this book and find out how Maria and her father cope with life in New York and how her family deals with being separated for this time. This book helps people to get to see things that they may never think of or have never dealt with in their lives. This story will give you the confidence and motivation to go out and be who you truly are, "I know who I am and who I may be if I chose."
LEELEON More than 1 year ago
Call Me Maria is an interesting book, about a young spanish girl who chose to move to NY with her dad. Rather then stay with her mother and her island memories. Maria has alot of adjusting to do in her new home as well as her American lifestyle image is limited. She has a happy side and a sad side and she is able to express both by writing poems. She is Maria Alegre and Maria Triste. Maria is also able to recognize the different people she comes in contact with and compares the difference with Puerto Rico upbringing and NY. She realized that it doesnt matter where you come from, home is where you make the best of it. Maria lives life by a basement window watching all sorts of people walk by in different styles and all are here for the same purpose. To live their lives as best and happy as they can. I have recommended this book to my cousin who moved from PR to Ohio. So he can see that someone else also shares his feelings, of leaving one parent behind and making a new life in a new town. I liked that Maria was able to expand her mind and was able to see other people without judging them and giving them a chance and herself a chance to see how other people live and think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
brittini More than 1 year ago
The book I read called Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer is about a young girl that comes to America from Puerto Rico because of her father wanting to leave. And so she goes with him to experience the new world which she has never been to before but she has to sacrifice leaving her mother behind and the only way to stay in contact with her is by writing letters back and forth. Maria is just trying to find her place in the new world that she now lives in by trying to lose her island accent and to make new friends.
Maria lives in an apartment building or a barrio with her father who is that super of the house. There she meets new friends and experiences what its like to like a new boy who is in love with himself and how that can break people¿s hearts. While she looks up to the cement sidewalks of the busy New York City roads, she watches peoples feet walk past her basement window and expresses that every person who walks by has a different story about why they are in the City and that encourages her to start writing poetry about her new home.
While she is writing poetry, she is also writing letters to her mother back at the island of Puerto Rico telling her all about her new experiences, the people she meets, but also how much she misses the smell and feel of the island compared to the dullness of the skyscrapers and gray roads of the city. Maria is torn between two cultures by becoming separated from her mother along with the world that she has known her entire life.
-Charlene- More than 1 year ago
This book is good for those who like poetry, like me... Told by letters and a poems. A young girl is about to discover something that or might change her life completely...
All you have to is read the book to find out what's is that "something" that would change her life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer was a great book. Maria is a teenager who had lived with her parents in Puerto Rico since she was born. When her Papi decides that he wants to go back to New York where he grew up, she goes with him, to help him get settled. She hopes that she can get an American education and go to college. When she gets there, she doesn't fit in. She calls herself Maria Triste(Sad Maria), and in Puerto Rico, she was Maria Alegre(Happy Maria). She has to learn to live in a city, where no one speaks like she does, and the weather is so much different. She writes poetry to ease her pain of leaving her home. She meets a friend named Whoopee, and her new life begins to get brighter. This is a great book for young adults, it shows how even in the worst times, things can get better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the story of Maria. Maria is a 15 year old girl who was born in Puerto Rico. She goes and lives with her father in NYC while her mother stays behind in Puerto Rico. Her and her mother communicate using Poems. In Maria's poems she writes her feelings about not fitting in, her friends and neighbors, the boy on her street and other surroundings. I really enjoyed reading this book because it was easy to understand. You also could relate to Maria and it felt like you were feeling what she was going through during this hard time.