Our review is coming to you a little later than usual with the holiday weekend, which means I got to hear what the rest of our book group thought before sharing here on the blog. My thoughts on the book are below (I loved it), but I thought I’d also let you all know how much our book group really loved Meg Medina’s novel. We had great conversations about the book, and everyone thought it could be a really powerful addition to the classroom. The language and story are straightforward, and could easily be read independently in middle or high school, but we even thought it would be a great read-aloud for upper elementary (although, you might want to do a little editing depending on your particular class, so be sure to read it ahead of time). I hope you’ll consider reading it. I don’t think it will disappoint.
The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind
Written by Meg Medina
Published by Candlewick Press, 2012
Age Level: 12 and up
Description (From GoodReads):
Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. All her life, Sonia has been asked to pray for sick mothers or missing sons, as worried parents and friends press silver milagros in her hands. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace?
Still, her conscience is heavy, so when she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. At first, Sonia feels freedom in being treated like all the other girls. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind.
With deeply realized characters, a keen sense of place, a hint of magical realism, and a flush of young romance, Meg Medina tells the tale of a strongwilled, warmhearted girl who dares to face life’s harsh truths as she finds her real power.
I had no trouble getting into Medina’s novel. I finished it quickly in one sitting, but I found myself disappointed when I reached the end, not because I didn’t like it, but because I was sad to see it end. I enjoyed the characters she’d created and wanted more.
While it’s set in the imaginary Latin American village of Tres Montes, the story connects to many important contemporary issues, most notably immigration. Opportunity is all but gone in the small village of Tres Montes. For the men, employment is all but limited to working in the mines. Young boys watch their fathers work their lives away in the mines, only to watch them grow old and increasingly weak from the toll the mining work has taken on their bodies. Sonia travels to the capital as a hired employee for the wealthy Masón family, but her brother Rafael risks paying someone, much like a coyote, to get him north. An easy target, Rafael falls prey to the many dangers that continue to claim so many immigrants trying to make it to the United States for a better life. Kidnapped and ransomed, Rafael ultimately dies. Medina’s novel could easily be paired with the documentary Which Way Home that follows several unaccompanied child immigrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call “The Beast” (click here for our Educator’s Guide to the film).
While quite different from The Queen of Water, the two novels share some common themes and would complement each other well. Both address issues of classism and racism through looking at the ways in which urban society is considered progressive and refined, while rural society is viewed as backwards and uneducated. Gender also plays an important role in the novel, as the reader sees the multiple ways in which the women of the story find themselves at the mercy of men with power. Perhaps it is because I was a teacher, but I found Pancho’s character to be one of the more powerful aspects of the book. As a bright boy with an incredible imagination, Pancho weaves beautiful stories, but few see him as anything but a poor orphan. If he’s noticed at all, it’s typically with scorn or annoyance. Yet, as a child with little power or protection, Pancho represents the vulnerability of so many children in our society. For me, his story was a quiet reprimand or reminder that we could all be doing more to protect those who represent that same vulnerability.
The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind is beautifully written, with hints of magical realism and endearing characters. It’s not necessarily a happy ending, but it is one of hope. A hope most clearly stated in one of my favorite lines of the book: “. . .they confessed they had always had a soft spot for old mountain stories like his, for tales of humble people and the courage that it took to live their days. For true stories of magic and love.”
It’s a book I’d highly recommend both for the experience of reading it in and of itself, and also for the powerful discussions it could bring into the classroom. The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind has received a number of awards and recognitions as a CBI Recommended Reads (UK), Mock 2012 Pura Belpré honor book, REFORMA, Heartland Chapter, Best Books 2013 Bank Street College. 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:
If you’re interested in hearing what the author himself has to say about the book, check out the following online interview:
Lastly, there’s a book trailer to accompany the novel:
Good for: Gathering Books AWB Challenge (CBI Recommended Reads (UK), Mock 2012 Pura Belpré honor book, REFORMA, Heartland Chapter, Best Books 2013 Bank Street College) and My Overstuffed Bookshelf YA Reading Challenge