A YA retelling of The Odyssey, set in Mexico.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillenLife is feeling a little out of control for 15-year old Odilia Garza and her four younger sistersJuanita, twins Delia and Velia, and little Pita. Their Papa left almost a year ago and has not been heard from since. Their Mama, who never completed high school, is working nights as a waitress and just seems lost in her own sadness. The Garza girls run wild, ignoring chores and taking off to go swim in the Rio Grande every chance they get. Then one day, a dead body floats into their little eddy of the river and magic enters the picture. Odilia is visited by the spirit of a woman grieving her lost childrena figure of Aztec myth named Llorona. She charges Odilia and her "hermanitas" (sisters) to take the dead man back to his family in Mexico and then go find their father's mother, Abuelita Remedios, who they have not seen in years. So begins a daunting adventure as the girls take off in their father's old car, and with a little help from Llorona's magical earrings, successfully fight off demons, witches and vampires before reaching the sanctuary of their grandmother's home and care. The sisters have had to support one another to survive and, with some guidance from Abuelita Remedios and the Virgin of Guadalupe, come to understand they must continue to work together to help their Mama become fully herself after the devastation of Papa's abandonment. Based loosely on both The Odyssey and on Aztec legends, this story celebrates the power of women and the bonds of family. An extensive Spanish-English glossary helps the reader with frequent use of Spanish terms in the text. An Author's Note provides additional insight for understanding the character and significance of Llorona. This book will resonate with those navigating the difficult waters of divorce and/or single-parent families. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Dianna GeersWhen Odilia and her sisters find a dead man in their secret water hole, they also find his wallet with his name, address in Mexico, and money. His home happened to be in a town just across the U.S. border, near where their paternal grandmother lives. Maybe she knows what happened to their own father, who has been missing for a year. The sisters drag the dead body out of the water, steal their father’s car that he abandoned at their house, and take off. This is just the beginning, as these girls not only have to stay out of sight because they know their mother would report them missing, but they take on a witch, a warlock, dangerous half-human owls, and chupacabras along the way. Although the author ambitiously attempts to create a Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey and incorporate traditional Aztec mythology, the insertion of magical creatures interfered with what could have been a great story on its own. When the magical elements appear sporadically throughout the story, they slow down the plot and take power away from the protagonist to act on her own decisions and strength. Longer chapters with no breaks and heavy chunks of narration will deter some readers from choosing this book or from continuing to read through to the end if they do select it. Ages 11 to 15.
School Library JournalGr 6 Up—This novel more than fulfills the promise of McCall's Under the Mesquite. In Summer of the Mariposas, she audaciously sets out to retell Homer's Odyssey within the context of Latino folklore. Odilia is the oldest of five sisters who have vowed to stay together forever. When they happen upon the body of a drowned man in their swimming hole, they decide to take him back to Mexico to his family, who happen to live nearby their own grandmother. La Llorona appears to Odilia and becomes her mentor and guide. The journey to the girls' grandmother's ranch involves getting across the border with a corpse without being caught by authorities. Then the magical realism kicks in as Odilia and her sisters have to combat various supernatural beings, including a shape-shifting witch and the dreaded Chupacabras, the monster who eats goats. These are just some of the connections, especially with the books of scary short stories mentioned below, that make this book such a rich source of material to introduce children to Latino myths, as well as the Odyssey itself. I love McCall's take on La Llorona, whom she sets out to redeem as a sympathetic mother figure, rather than the scary child kidnapper she is most often made out to be.
Kirkus ReviewsIn her first fantasy, Pura Belpré winner McCall (Under the Mesquite, 2011)tells the story of five sisters and their myriad adventures as they travel from their home in Texas to Mexico. When narrator and eldest Odilia and her sisters, Juanita, Velia, Delia and Pita, find a dead man in their swimming hole, Odilia wants to call the authorities. She is soon overruled by her sisters, who clamor to return the man to his family and visit their grandmother, all of whom live in Mexico. What follows is a series of adventures that hover somewhere on the border between fantasy and magical realism as the sisters are helped and hindered by supernatural forces including Latin American legends La Llorona, lechuzas and chupacabras. Despite multiple decisions that lead them into danger, the younger sisters persist in dismissing Odilia's warnings, their bad choices ranging from silly to decidedly immature. When they reach their grandmother's house, the dialogue-heavy story continues with extensive reflection of a level of maturity incongruous with the behavior exhibited in prior pages. The sisters then return home to face real-world problems that may prove most challenging of all. While this story is sometimes bogged down by moralizing and adventures that don't always seem to support the plot, originality and vibrancy shine through to make it a worthwhile read despite its flaws. (Fantasy. 9-14)
The Monitor - David BowlesBeautifully written, heart-wrenching, action-packed and funny as can be, Summer of the Mariposas is a must-read for kids 12 years and up.
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