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The Tequila Worm

The Tequila Worm

4.0 29
by Viola Canales

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Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio in McAllen, Texas, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for quinceañera, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating the tequila


Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio in McAllen, Texas, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for quinceañera, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating the tequila worm. When Sofia is singled out to receive a scholarship to boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids. It’s a different mundo, but one where Sofia’s traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This tender first novel suffers somewhat from an awkward structure. Narrator Sofia, whose life story hews closely to the author's own Texas barrio-to-Harvard Law trajectory, begins by relating quotidian childhood experiences as vignettes. Three successive chapters go from first communion to dyeing Easter cascarones to trick-or-treating. A quarter of the way into the novel, she is suddenly 14 and has been offered a scholarship to a boarding school in Austin, Tex., 350 miles from her home in McAllen. The loosely connected anecdotes then shift to a conventional narrative thread about convincing her parents to let her attend. What will keep readers enthralled are the details of Sofia's home life-from the sobremesa, a "sacred time" after dinner in which the family reconnects through conversation, to the worm of the title, a critter soaked in mescal that acts as a "cure for homesickness" when eaten. Readers may well feel unprepared for both a death at novel's end and Sofia's out-of-the-blue neighborhood activism-but the characters are real and engaging, the vignettes funny and enlightening, and Sofia's lack of cynicism is refreshing. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Through a series of vignettes, Sofia's story comes to life—a life in the barrio in McAllen, Texas. We learn about the celebrations and traditions of her family: preparing for her First Communion, making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, getting ready for her cousin's quincianera, and all the preparations for Christmas, among others. When Sofia is chosen to receive a scholarship to a prestigious Episcopal boarding school in Austin, three-hundred-fifty miles away, she is torn between wanting to obtain the best education possible and wanting to remain with her beloved family. Violeta Canale's debut novel is storytelling at its best. Her warm and vivid characters remain long after the story ends. 2005, Random House, Ages 10 to 14.
—Maria E. Gentle
Sofia, a Mexican American girl in Southern Texas, is raised in a world of stories, where one of the three wise men rides a ceramic elephant with a pink saddle and the world will end "when a nun-and I mean any nun-dies." She lives in the gap between two cultures, with a Mexican family seemingly from another planet and an American school where she does not want to be a "Taco Head." Sofia is a bright young woman, though, and is offered a scholarship to attend a prestigious boarding school far from home. Her family does not understand her desire to see the world beyond the barrio, but they let her leave with a promise to become a good comadre, "someone who makes people into a family." Moving to a white world of wealth and privilege, Sophia discovers that her family's stories and traditions have taught her about life and that nothing cures homesickness better than a tequila worm. Canales shows snapshots in the life of her protagonist from childhood squabbles to her return to the barrio as an adult. It combines wonderfully absurd humorous moments with serious issues like discrimination, family separation, and the death of a parent. Touching on elements of mysticism but never allowing conventions or symbols to detract from her characters, Canales creates a delightfully stirring first novel. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 199p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Angela Semifero
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Sofia, 14, lives in McAllen, TX. What she lacks in material possessions, she makes up for in personality and intelligence. When she is called a "taco head" by a student at her school, she decides to "kick that girl" by getting better grades and being a better soccer player than her tormentor. As a result of this determination, Sofia is offered a scholarship to the elite Saint Luke's school in Austin. Now she must convince her family and herself that she is up to the challenge. Canales includes vivid descriptions of life in a Mexican-American community. Her prose is engaging and easy to read, making this novel a good choice for reluctant readers. The momentum slows a bit after Sofia's arrival in Austin in contrast to the portion of the book set in McAllen. Still, the story is a good addition to most collections.-Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sofia, growing up in an urban Latino neighborhood in McAllen, Texas, has a chance to attend an expensive boarding school in Austin on scholarship. Like her father, Sofia lives the life of the mind, rich with story and possibility. How can she convince her mother to let her take this opportunity? By learning to dance and showing her that she can leave home and still learn to become a good comadre. Canales, the author of the story collection Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (2001), is a graduate of Harvard Law School, suggesting that Sofia's story at least closely parallels her own. She is an accomplished storyteller, though not yet, perhaps, a successful novelist. The episodic narrative has disconcerting leaps in time at the beginning, and a sense of completion, or a moral displayed, at several points throughout-all lacking the tension to carry the reader forward. This said, the characters and setting are so real to life that readers who connect with Sofia at the start will find many riches here, from a perspective that is still hard to find in youth literature. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Random House Children's Books
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Read an Excerpt

The Tequila Worm

By Viola Canales

Random House

Viola Canales
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385746741

Chapter One


In the evenings when the cool breeze began to blow, all the families came out to their porches to sit and talk, to laugh and gossip. And that is where and how our barrio became one family.

Dona Clara visited every summer and no one missed her stories, for she came carrying a bag filled with secret things that conjured up the most amazing tales.

Clara had a square face on top of a big round body, and the biggest eyes and the widest mouth: she was especially proud of her catfish mouth, which she painted scarlet. She wore a big black onyx tongue around her neck. "This," she said, "is the symbol of a storyteller. It has been handed down from generation to generation, for hundreds of years."

When asked where she'd come from, she'd roll her eyes, pitch her arms up to the night sky, and point to the stars with her long scarlet fingernails. So the other kids and I believed she'd just flown down from a star.

Then she'd shake her many wooden bracelets and thrust her hand into her mysterious bag. She rattled her things around as we stared, bug-eyed.

Clara sucked her front teeth, batted her eyes, and then slowly started lifting something out of her bag. You could hear your blood go thump! thump! thump!

Once, she pulled out a three-inch lock of hair. "This belonged to Mama Maria, your great-great-grandmother." 

As the lock of dark hair made its way from hand to hand, person to person, Clara said, "Your Mama Maria was a mule. Always kicking her way through things. A force to behold! But beautiful, with the darkest eyes and long, wild Apache hair. This hair.

"And you, Sofia"-Clara pointed at me-"not only look like her, but have inherited her gift for mule-kicking." I gasped. My cousin Berta laughed. 

Papa was sitting beside me on top of an upside-down pail. "Mi'ja, don't look so worried. This is a good thing-for things to kick will come your way in many shapes and sizes. You'll see."

Next Clara pulled out a jar full of big mule teeth with a piece of a blue balloon inside. "I always show the hair and teeth and blue balloon together," she said, "for the teeth belonged to Papa Carlos, your great-great-grandfather, Mama Maria's husband, and he gave this blue balloon to her when they met and fell in love in a little Mexican plaza far away. The town plaza, in those days, was where people gathered to tell their tales."

Oh no! I thought. Please don't say I inherited those teeth, too!
But Clara pointed at Berta, who bit her lip and covered her big mouth with her hand. Now I laughed.

"Hija, the big teeth are a good gift too," said Berta's mother, T'a Belia, "if you learn to use them right."

And as the jar of teeth made its way around, Clara told us, "Look closely at them, for they once bit a rattlesnake in half, chewed a mountain of tobacco, and helped yell out the longest string of insults imaginable.

"Yes, kicking and biting like mules runs deep in our blood. Never forget that, for it might come in handy someday."

The things Clara pulled out of her bag included chipped saints, wacky handmade dolls, arrowheads, recipes, cracked old photos of stiff people, and pictures of dead children, who looked beautiful and peacefully asleep.

Clara always stayed a couple of days and then disappeared. "I have to go visit other families, other barrios, for it's important that they also hear these stories."

But before leaving she'd reach into her bag one last time to pull out a tiny bottle of mescal. She'd take a hairpin and fish out the tequila worm swimming inside. "This will cure my homesickness as I travel to my next family," Clara would say, popping the tequila worm into her mouth and chewing. She swallowed loudly as we stared. I was amazed. Sick, too. "Now, is there some story you want me to tell as I continue on my journey?"

I'd shake my head. There was nothing I'd want her to tell, at least nothing that could possibly compare with the stories that went with the big teeth, the lock of hair, and especially the tequila worm.
When I was about six, Clara came to visit as usual, but this time she was in a wheelchair. And when we gathered around her on the porch, we saw that her big mouth had collapsed into a thin line and her popping eyes gazed out at nothing.

Mama kissed Clara's trembling white hair and placed her story bag at the center of the porch. She reached inside and slowly pulled out her cupped hand. There was nothing in it. But Mama handed the invisible thing to me and said, "Here is the ceramic baby Jesus for the manger of the Christmas nacimiento your abuelita builds each year. It represents the vivid image Clara gave me of my great-grandmother Maria, who I never met, but who I feel close to through her story: about how she worked for weeks, making tamales and then going door to door selling them so she could buy a brand-new baby Jesus for her daughter, my mother, who was appointed the Christmas madrina, the godmother for baby Jesus that year." This image was passed around from hand to hand, person to person.

"Sofia, you're next!" Mama said. "Reach into the bag and see what secret is inside for you." I put my hand
in and felt all around. Empty. I pulled out my cupped hand and showed everyone. I hesitated, then turned to look at Clara. "This is the black onyx tongue that Clara still wears around her neck. I look at it and remember all the stories Clara has told us. Our stories."

"Yes," said Mama. "Clara is a perfect example of a good comadre."

"A good comadre?" I said.

Excerpted from The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Viola Canales, a lawyer and a former captain in the U.S. Army, is the author of Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales. She lives in Stanford, California.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Tequila Worm 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall i had to say this book was really good. Its about a highschool girl named Sofia and she is trying to become a good comadre. In the book Sofia goes through living in a house with her family and going to highschool in mexico but is accepted to a private highschool in Austin, Texas. Sofia gets all excited about being able to go to this really nice school and decides right away that she wants to go. After her parents finally agree to let her go Sofia and her cousin and sister make her dresses that she will take to the school, and during that time the 3 become very close. Sofia then goes off to the school and has a rough start at first but then things start to work out. She then comes home for christmas break and things change drasticially for sofia. I would recommend this book to anyone boy or girl in 7-10 grade. The book was very emotional and really showed how a family should work together to stay close when they are in need.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ilove this book it realy touched me
glowbug88 More than 1 year ago
I really hope to see more stories from this author! This story is rich with culture! I enjoyed getting to know the characters and learning the importance of balancing who we are and where we come from. I can simply not put into words hjow enjoyable this story was from an adult perspective. Hope this inspires others to read and share this amazing piece of literature.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ookkk bye
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irishgurl070 More than 1 year ago
The Tequila Worm, by Viola Canales (published by Wendy Lamb Books), demoates the re-occuring themes of family relationships, growing up, and world cultures. The main character, Sofia, learns to balance the values of her family with her own dreams to become a Harvard graduate. Sofia is expected to play the role of a wife and a mother in the Mexican-American barrio of McAllen, Texas, where she has lived her whole life.Growing up in McAllen, Sofia has experienced a life that her ancestors would recconize. Her whole world has revolved around the values of her family and friends. But Sofia wants to do things her way. Traditions have always been the same in McAllen,women marry young and stay in the barrio with their husbands for the rest of their lives. Sofia has bigger dreams and sees a chance to achieve them when her exceptional grades at school provide her with the chance to attend an elite school in Austin, Texas. Now, all Sofia has to do is gain the approval of her family and friends. With the help of her cousin, Berta, sophia is able to buy and make five dresses that she needed for the school. In return, Sofia helps Berta plan her quincenera. Sofia realizes how much she values her family and friends once she is away at the school. She begins to wonder if she had made the right choice when she decided to break the traditional mold of the town. Despite her struggles, Sofia is able to keep up her good grades and and keep in touch with family and friends through letters and phone calls to home. I liked this book because it shows how Sofia was able to break free of the typical life of a woman in her town and follow her dreams. Also, in a way, Sofia grows closer to her family than ever before when she starts attending the elite school. I learned that there is a way to stay true to one's herritage even if home is far away. I liked the fact thateventhough Sofia was far from home, she still stayed close to her family and even found an old Mexican tradition of cureing homesickness. "A tequila worm cures homesickness, not problems" (Canales 92). I reccomend this book to people who like to learn about other cultures. The Tequila Worm gives readers a peek into the life of a typical Mexican-American barrio. I would also reccomend this book to anyone who likes a friendly story about family. friends, and herritage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title of this book refers to a Hispanic Tradition that eating the worm after finishing a bottle of Mescal tequila will cure homesickness. Sofia, a 13 year old Mexican-American girl living in McAllen, Texas, has the opportunity to attend an elite boarding school four hundred miles away on scholarship. There, she must find a way to fit into this new culture of weathly American kids and still keep her own Mexican values and culture. There is quite a bit of Spanish vocabulary contained in this story, and I could not help but thinking that others who did not have knowledge of Spanish would have no idea what these words meant. Other than this, though, this is a wonderful coming-of-age story filled with the love of family, frendship, trials and challenges of growing up. The Tequila Worm will transport you into the world of Sofia and her adventures of learning how to be a good comadre. ~Saginaw Valley State University Student
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In my opinion this book was different. I¿m not sure if I liked it or not. I liked the fact that the book taught the reader about the Hispanic culture, but the book was very slow to read. I had mixed feelings about this book, so I am going to have to say I give ¿The Tequila Worm¿ three and a half stars out of five.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Tequila worm is about a 14-year-old girl named Sofia growing up with her Hispanic family in McAllen, Mexico. Throughout the book Sofia becomes closer to her father tells her stories and teaches her how to become a good 'comadre' Sofia is one of the smartest is her grade and is offered a scholarship to go to a private school in Austin, Texas. She would really like to go to this school but at first her parents aren't too keen on her going. After her parents let her go, she says she will come home on all of the breaks. While she is going back and forth from school to her home back in McAllen her world is flipped upside down. I would recommend this book to anyone 7th-10th grade. I really enjoyed this book for 2 reasons, it taught me that change can be good and it was a very short read. This book was exciting throughout the whole book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book The Tequila Worm is a great story about growing up in a Latin family. I would give this book a four stars because it was an excellent book and I enjoyed learning about the Latin traditions. I would recommend this book to any teens who want to learn more about the Latin culture. The Tequila Worm takes place in Mexico and later in the United States as well. The book is about the main character Sofia growing up and finding her way through life and its challenges. Its also about her making her own decisions even if they might not be what her family would normally do. Also the book is a lot about the traditions of growing up in a Latin family and how you should never forget about your culture and family no matter how far away from home you are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Tequila Worm it talks about Latin culture and family. It¿s a good story about how family always support everybody and how the culture its very important in their life to show your identities like Sofia in this story ,she finds her way from her family, goals customs and her culture and becomes very successful person in her life. Even though she was different from the other girls, mostly like. She wanted traveled around the world, go to college. Instead of getting marry and be at the house taking care of their kids. I think this book it¿s a great book that tells you what the culture and family is to you but most important is to find what you really want in your life and makes you feel good about yourself. However, you should never forget your culture and where you coming from. Great choose you should pass it around and tell them how value it to have a family and culture and what does it means.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy The Tequila Worm. This book is very outstanding, also funny, and very easy to enjoy. I give this book thumbs up. I personally congratulate the author for her excellent job. This book is basically about a girl who life changes by making one single decision. It also talks about the culture and the tradition of a family. The point the author makes is that people and places are changing, also when new people move to your neighborhood give them some time to learn about the culture and how to be part of single family. I had made some connections with this book for example when the family is preparing for the holidays. When I started reading this book and reading about the holidays, it made feel like if I was at home. I recommend this book to young people so they would never forget to celebrate their holidays. Also, for adults to remember the tradition that makes their family happy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
TEQUILA WORM I would give 3 stars out of 5. This book was not an excellent book but not bad either. It had very inspirational writing and message in it like what I got out of it is, ¿Your family helps you know where you came from and celebrate your culture so that you don¿t forget where you came from even if your dreams take you elsewhere. But still dream big but always have where you came from in your heart.¿ I do admit in some parts it got kind of boring for example some chapter got slow at times. The book talks a lot about family and culture so if you like books like that then you should definitely read Tequila Worm.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of The Tequila Worm is an inspirational story that takes place in both Mexico and soon later the United States. The tequila worm is a way to cure home sickness. Which Tia Petra had used every time she missed being home. You learn about your families¿ culture and you learn how to become a good camadre like being there for your family and helping them when they need you most. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the Mexican culture. I say this is a 4 out of 5 star rating, and am glad we had a chance to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Tequila Worm The book that I have read recently is, The Tequila Worm, by Viola Canales. I would give this book five stars because it¿s an excellent book!! I recommend this book for all teens, from ages 13 to 15 because it¿s talking about a quinceañera, a teen¿s 15th birthday celebration. This Mexican American tale first takes place in Mexico, then the family moves to the U.S. The point that Viola Canales makes is that by remembering the good and the bad of were you came from. You shouldn¿t forget your culture and that family will always be there for you in your time of need and of celebrating!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book just goes to show readers they can't judge a book by the cover!! It was very interesting to read about the culture and heritage of Hispanic people. It was great to learn some Spainish words throughout this work and that ancient Hispanic culture is still alive today...This book has a lot of little 'one liners' that make the readers laugh out loud. She is proposed to at 14 and she bits her cousin, it's just a cute story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sofia Casas, like Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird and Harriet Welch of Harriet the Spy, is an observant, bookish girl whose adventures entertain us, even as they teach important lessons about the importance of family and issues of social class. The novel begins with Sofia's life in the Mexican-American barrio, where she encounters eccentric relatives and traditional rituals. The opportunity to attend a fancy Anglo boarding school as a scholarship student requires Sofia to think about joining another world Her adventures in a cucumber-packing shed earning the money for school (a chapter whose ending is particularly striking) and pawing through piles of clothes at Johnson's Ropa Usada, the last stop for unwanted clothes before they head to the Third World, are balanced by her family's concern that by entering the wider world Sofia will lose touch with her community. What makes the book so winning is how Sofia manages to juggle the two worlds, coming to embody the best of each. The author, Viola Canales, has a deft touch that will leave readers wanting to talk about the book with their friends and parents, and wanting to know Sofia better.