Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Readers of all backgrounds will easily connect with Sofia as she grows up, becomes a comadre, and helps rebuild the powerful, affectionate community that raised her." Booklist (Starred Review)
"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." School Library Journal
"[T]he 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." Kirkus Reviews
"[C]ombines wonderfully absurd humorous moments with serious issues like discrimination, family separation, and the death of a parent....Canales creates a delightfully stirring first novel." Angela Semifero, VOYA
"Violeta Canale's debut novel is storytelling at its best. Her warm and vivid characters remain long after the story ends." Maria E. Gentle, Children's Literature
Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. When she's 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.
About 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.