The Tequila Worm

Moving portrait of Mexican-American life.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A nostalgic look at tradition and culture through the eyes of an individual who is evolving away from her roots.

Positive role models

Some sexism and anti-Mexican racism are in this text, but it is portrayed in a delicate way.

Not applicable

References to kissing.

Not applicable

Various stores and candy brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking, some underage.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that teens drink here, but in Mexican culture a small amount of teen drinking is acceptable. There is some sexism and anti-Mexican racism.

What's the story?

A fictionalized memoir of growing up in the warm embrace of the Mexican-American barrio of McAllen, Texas. For Sofia the center of her life is her extended family and her comadres, the girls who will become her lifelong ... well, friends seems too pale a word for this intense, mutually supportive relationship.

But Sofia has dreams beyond the barrio, and a pivotal event in her childhood gives her the drive to achieve them. When she wins a scholarship to an Episcopal boarding school hundreds of miles away her family is reluctant to let her go, but determined to keep her tied firmly to her roots when she does.

Is it any good?


First-time novelist Viola Canales has accomplished what few before her have managed: to create a realistic, but not didactic, portrait of life within a particular culture, in this case Mexican-American in Texas, that will resonate with others from that culture and has such appeal that non-Mexican readers will wish it was their culture too. The details of foods, traditions, rituals, clothing are warm, rich and loving, and so integrated into the daily life and mindset of all the characters that it creates a yearning in the reader to experience it firsthand.

When Sofia steps out of her community into one very alien to her -- a mostly white Protestant boarding school -- she neither loses touch with her home and culture nor feels an outsider in her new setting. While she faces some prejudice in her new school, she also finds support, close friends, and a superb education while remaining true to herself. This is a lovely, moving, warmhearted story that lingers long after the last page.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about some of the book's secondary themes such as the importance of education, maintaining ties to home and friends, and the centrality of family.

  • Why, in this ever-changing world, should we hold on to culture and

  • tradition?

  • What do they do for us, and why are they important?

Book details

Author:Viola Canales
Genre:Family Life
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:January 26, 2006
Number of pages:199
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bydorayfs November 25, 2009
age 12+

Great story for any age 12+

I really enjoyed reading this book. I am a Latina and I think that this book can show other cultures that latinos as not just in for taking their jobs, making things worse for them.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 17 years old Written bybroslyg December 7, 2008
age 9+

i really recommend this book to anyone at any age.

it was good in the hispanic culture. i can relate to sofia.
Adult Written byBeknow April 9, 2008
age 0+


I'm working on my certification to teach and have spent the past four years in the classroom working with middle school students. This is a book I will certainly recommend to eighth graders of any culture to read. It was a wonderful window into a culture which would not readily be apparent by an outsider. Canales' story brought to life the characters and beauty of Hispanic culture in the United States.


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