Set in the fictional Latin country of Santa Maria, this richly tiered novel is, at its core, wrenchingly real. Maximiliano Córdoba, almost 12, often wonders “about big and bewildering things,” principally why his mother disappeared when he was a baby, but Max’s somber Papá refuses to answer any questions. Newbery Honoree Ryan (Echo) infuses the soccer-loving boy’s story with mystery based on local myth, closely guarded secrets, and a missing birth certificate. As the boy walks with his solitary Papá, ironically a builder of bridges in their small town, a peregrine falcon appears; legend has it that the falcon annually brings “the ghosts of the hidden ones”—refugees who fled a neighboring country’s cruelties with the help of “guardians” who shepherded them to safety through local ruins. The author interlaces this lore with the intricate story of how Max’s family played a key role in the real-life drama, and how the boy bravely steps in to carry on that legacy. Lyrical allusions to the heartbreaking reality of life under repressive regimes and Max’s belief in the promise of tomorrow fuse the title and plot of this compelling novel, which ends on a reassuring note. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
Praise for Mañanaland:"Ryan has created a world of enchantment that is both innately familiar and uniquely magical... Readers will be led into every rocky corner and wondrous ledge of Ryan's world through her vivid use of imagery, which keeps readers present on every page. She weaves so much relevant lyricism into this small, meaningful volume... 'Mañanaland manages to be both timely and timeless." New York Times* "Ryan beautifully layers thought-provoking topics onto her narrative while keeping readers immersed in the story's world. Although set in the fictional country of Santa Maria, "somewhere in the Américas," the struggles of refugee immigrants and the compassion of those who protect the travelers feel very relevant. This tightly packed, powerful fantasy contains resonant truths." Kirkus Reviews, starred review* "Evocative and dreamlike writing...authentic characters...impeccable pacing....This story, infused with magic, reminds children that humanity thrives when people embrace differences and construct bridges instead of borders. Another unforgettable work from a master storyteller." Booklist, starred review* "This richly tiered novel is, at its core, wrenchingly real... Newbery Honoree Ryan (Echo) infuses the soccer-loving boy's story with mystery based on local myth, closely guarded secrets, and a missing birth certificate. Lyrical allusions to the heartbreaking reality of life under repressive regimes and Max's belief in the promise of tomorrow fuse the title and plot of this compelling novel." Publishers Weekly, starred review* "A richly satisfying novel that is both contemporary and timeless... The author seamlessly weaves into Max's journey important themes about asylum seekers and the people who help them." Shelf Awareness, starred review"As always, Ryan's strength is in her visually expressive language... Poignant, memorable moments are created with just a few sentences... A gem of a story with timely messages... a required purchase." School Library Journal"The fictional...setting and the promise of...Mañanaland make for an easier lens with which to view the refugee crisis for young readers, who may gain a greater understanding of real problems happening across the world through Max's tale." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book"Mañanaland now, more than ever, in this riveting testament to heroism and compassion as only master storyteller Pam Muñoz Ryan can divine and deliver. "A luminous embodiment of hope." Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning author of One Crazy Summer and Clayton Byrd Goes Underground"Mañanaland is that rare gift of a book. It blends dream and truth into an enthralling fantasy that quietly shows us what it is like to be unwanted, searching for a place to belong. It is a story about choosing the very difficult path of kindness and courage, and about the faith of knowing with all our hearts that this is the path we all must take." Francisco X. Stork, award-winning author of Disappeared"On the edge of fantasy and reality, Pam Munoz Ryan weaves an encouraging tale for those who seek refuge and the promise of a bright tomorrow... This would be an inspiring title for elementary and even middle school library to have in their collections to appeal to those readers who, like Max, are embarking on their own path to self-discovery." School Library Connection, Recommended"Ryan skillfully balances Max's day-to-day concerns with his longing for his mother and his growing awareness of a moral responsibility to help others... rich and relevant." The Horn Book
Gr 3–6—Eleven-year-old Maximiliano Córdoba lives in Santa Maria village with his father's extended family of stone masons. On the mundane level, he wants to join a fútbol clinic with his friend Chuy, but an abandoned stone tower—La Reina Gigante—makes him wonder about hidden refugees fleeing the neighboring country of Abismo. While Max's father is away, Max encounters a refugee, Isadora, and learns his family are secretly guardians who help people flee to safety. In his father's absence, Max determines to guide Isadora to the next stop with all the dangers that entails, partly to discover information about his long-absent mother. As always, Ryan's strength is in her visually expressive language. Readers can picture the village, the personified tower, and Max's journey through rough country. Poignant, memorable moments are created with just a few sentences. On the other hand, the novel is slow to start. Additionally, the imaginary country construct vies with specific details found in real life such as Catholic churches, fútbol, and a Portuguese water dog. The first half of the novel is an uneasy detente of this paradox. However, as Max and Isadora set out, the imminent danger and their growing friendship will pull readers fully into this world and make Ryan's story feel solid. VERDICT A gem of a story with timely messages whose main audience is educators and contemplative children. Nevertheless, a required purchase.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT
A boy journeys to self-discovery through the power of stories and traditions.
Eleven-year-old Maximiliano Córdoba is ready for an idyllic summer. He plans to work hard as a builder for his father and train for fútbol tryouts. Plus, Max hopes dad will take him to visit the towering ruins of La Reina Gigante, a haunted hideout used in the past by the Guardians to hide refugees as they fled Abismo, a war-torn, neighboring dictatorship. However, when Max must provide his birth certificate to join the team, he feels his dream summer crumble away. The document disappeared years ago, along with his mother, the woman with whom Max shares "leche quemada" eyes. Soon, Papá leaves on a three-week journey to request a new one, and Max finds himself torn between two desires: to know the truth about why his mother left when he was a baby and to make the team. As Max discovers the enchanting stories his grandfather has been telling him for years have an actual foothold in reality, he must choose between his own dreams and those of others. Kirkus Prize winner Ryan (Echo, 2015) beautifully layers thought-provoking topics onto her narrative while keeping readers immersed in the story's world. Although set in the fictional country of Santa Maria, "somewhere in the Américas," the struggles of refugee immigrants and the compassion of those who protect the travelers feel very relevant.
This tightly packed, powerful fantasy contains resonant truths. (Fantasy. 7-14)