Description (From GoodReads):
When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.
With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?
Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.
Summer of the Mariposas is the second book by Guadalupe Garcia McCall that we’ve featured for our monthly book group. Last May we read Under the Mesquite, and loved it. Thematically there are some similarities, however these are two very different novels. While Under the Mesquite is a realistic novel in verse, Summer of the Mariposas is a novel of magical realism, which is one of the things that makes it so special. Magical realism is one of my favorite genres. I fell in love with it during my first semester of Latin American Literature. As much as my students loved fantasy, I would have loved to have shared some examples of magical realism with them, but unfortunately, I never knew of any books that would be appropriate for my elementary school students. It’s not like I could have used One Hundred Years of Solitude for read aloud with my 3rd graders. Garcia McCall’s novel offers us just such a book—and one that I think many of my students would have really enjoyed. While they loved a variety of books from various genres, fantasy was almost always a hit for read aloud. They talked about The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatly Snyder all year. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson were always well-loved and popular heroes. There are lots of discussions as to the lack of imagination and creativity in schools today, and the effect this is having on our students, but despite this, many of my students never seemed to have trouble suspending disbelief when it came to a well-told tale. While they loved the stories I mentioned above, I believe they would have been ecstatic over a fantastical story like Summer of the Mariposas that included La Llorona, the chupacabras, and lechuzas because these were myths they knew, that they’d grown up hearing about. I loved how Garcia McCall took the story of La Llorona and made it more complex. As the guide or mentor for the girls, La Llorona was no longer just an evil woman, but a woman who had suffered the devastating loss of her own children. It’s an interesting premise that could be explored further—how often do we oversimplify someone’s story to the point that we no longer have an authentic representation of that person?
As an adult reader, perhaps I wanted a more complex plot. I’m not going to deny occasional frustration with the fighting among the sisters, and their tendency to make the same mistakes over and over again. But, I’m not sure if those are necessarily issues for the target age group of the novel. As a teacher, I saw some of my students act in similar ways to the sisters—so maybe it might help them to see someone else learning from those mistakes!
Like Under the Mesquite, family relationships are an important theme, especially the relationships between sisters and between mother and daughter. By the end of the novel, the sisters have found themselves and seem to have a better understanding of how they are and their importance to each other. One of my favorite parts of the book is how Odilia’s relationship with her mother develops and changes. I think mother-daughter relationships can be difficult and as daughters we don’t always understand our mothers or why they are the way they are. Odilia comes to learn a great deal about herself and her mother, allowing her relationship with her mother to grow and deepen.
I’m not alone in thinking Summer of the Mariposas is a worthwhile read–it’s received recognition from a variety of organizations as a 2013 Andre Norton Award Nominee, a 2013 Westchester Fiction Award Winner, and was included on the Bankstreet College Best Books 2013 List, and the 2012 School Library Journal List of Best Books.
I hope you’ll consider adding it to your classroom library. Click here to be taken to our Educator’s Guide for the book.
If you’d like to read what others have thought about the book check out the links to other reviews below:
And to hear more about what the author has to say on the novel, check out:
- Guadalupe Garcia McCall on How Writing Heals (an excerpt from her 2012 Pura Belpré acceptance speech for Under the Mesquite)
- Interview from Lee & Low Books
If you’re an Albuquerque local I hope you’ll join us Monday September 9th at Bookworks from 5-7 for some coffee and conversation about Summer of the Mariposas!
Good for: Gathering Books AWB Challenge (2013 Andre Norton Award Nominee, a 2013 Westchester Fiction Award Winner, Bankstreet College Best Books 2013 List, and the 2012 School Library Journal List of Best Books) and My Overstuffed Bookshelf YA Reading Challenge