Summer of the Mariposas

Common Sense Media says

Fantastical quest explores sisterhood and Mexican legends.

Age(i)

2
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5
6
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8
9
10
11
12
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn many Spanish words and familiarize themselves with Mexican folklore and popular legends such as El Chupacabras, La Llorona, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the bingo-like game of Loteria. The celebration of a quinceañera is explained as well. The author even includes a glossary to help readers who aren't versed in Mexican/Spanish colloquialisms or stories.

Positive messages

The book promotes the bond of sisterhood, the importance of honoring your mother, and the virtues of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity -- especially during dire circumstances.

Positive role models

Odilia is a caring big sister, who despite getting annoyed with her little sisters, tries to do what is best for them. Juanita is smart and compassionate, believing it's their duty to return the dead body to its family. All five sisters prove themselves to be brave in the face of considerable danger.

Violence

The girls encounter the dead body of a man who drowned in the Rio Grande and resolve to drive his corpse to Mexico. During the sisters' attempt to return home, they come face to face with various dangerous creatures, such as the Chupacabras that bites the youngest sister and the "siren" who sedates the girls with her sweets and hopes to keep them forever and then summons a brood of owls to pursue them. The worst episodes are when a shapeshifting dark creature boils a pot and plans to eat them but then ends up falling in it himself, and when they blind the Chupacabra.

Sex

There are no teen romances in store for the older girls, but there are references to their father's infidelity, and his "seductress" shows up with him at one point. The girls' mother flirts with an FBI agent.

Language

Mild almost-cursing, such as saying "helicopter" instead of "hell." The girls hurl insults like "know it all," "crazy," "fat little thief," "stupid," and more at one another and strangers.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Summer of the Mariposas is the second book by award-winning author Guadalupe Garcia McCall. The novel is a loose adaptation of Homer's Odyssey featuring five Mexican-American sisters, ages 10 to 15, on an epic quest. The girls face danger several times, just like Odysseus, and must vanquish each potential threat to return home to their mother in Texas. Although there is some mild violence, there is no strong language or sex, so it's an educational and entertaining choice for mature middle-grade readers, not just young-adult fans. Readers will learn a great deal about Mexican folklore and legends, as well as many Spanish words and terms. Ultimately, Summer of the Mariposas promotes the bond of sisterhood and the love between mother and daughters.

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What's the story?

The five Garza sisters (cinco hermanitas) are enjoying an otherwise unremarkable summer in the border town of Eagle Pass, TX, when they come across a dead body floating in the Rio Grande. After second-oldest Juanita discovers his family photo and license, she convinces her younger sisters -- twins Velia and Delia and baby sis Pita -- to attempt to return the body to his address in Mexico. Oldest sister Odilia, 15, thinks the idea is crazy but when she sees a vision of the mythical La Llorona (the Weeping Woman) insisting they go, she relents. With magical earrings to protect them and La Llorona to guide them, the Garzas head across the border to deliver the man, but their return home to their mother turns into an Odyssey-like journey filled with perilous obstacles.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Award-winning author Gaudalupe Garcia McCall obviously writes what she knows. Not only did she grow up in the same town as her characters, but she also has five younger sisters to whom she dedicated the book. That firsthand knowledge of being raised Mexican and American (with so many sisters!) comes through in her story, which is achingly realistic when it comes to the Garza sisters' interactions. Although the sisters make a lot of decisions that will make adult readers cringe in horror, it makes perfect sense that alternately naive and know-it-allish preteens and adolescents would make a lot of mistakes on a fantastical journey toward self-discovery and reconciliation with their mother.

The author excels at depicting the love between mothers and children. Whether it's the cancer-stricken Mami in Under the Mesquite or the downtrodden and jilted Mamá (or the eternally grieving La Llorona) in Summer of Mariposas, Garcia McCall beautifully describes the unconditional and fierce way a mother cares for her hijitas. It's hard to find truly multicultural literature for tweens and teens, so it's a relief to know authors like Garcia McCall make it a priority to explore the way bilingual kids navigate both cultures.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the legends and folklore discussed in the book. Is it necessary to be familiar with Mexican culture to understand the story? What did you learn about Mexican history and beliefs?

  • How does the author transform usually scary figures, like La Llorona or the Chupacabras, into misunderstood creatures who are actually sadder than they are frightening?

  • How do the elements from the Loteria game (like the names of each chapter) foreshadow plot developments or provide insight about the characters?

Book details

Author:Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Great girl role models, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Lee & Low Books
Publication date:October 1, 2012
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of Summer of the Mariposas was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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