Educator’s Guide: The Tequila Worm

Educator’s Guide: The Tequila Worm 

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales is the selection for the LAII’s Vamos a Leer book group meeting held on November 3, 2014. The following information comprises a standards-based educator’s guide that the LAII has produced to support using The Tequila Worm (Wendy Lamb Books, 2005) in the classroom.  The standards are not included here, but are included with the lesson plans in the PDF. The complete guide is available for download at no cost: Vamos a Leer Educator’s Guide: The Tequila Worm.

To read our thoughts on the novel, see our book review.


Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Día 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 an elite 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.


  • Américas Award Honorable Mention 2005
  • Pura Belpré Award for Writing,  2006
  • 2006 ALSC Notable Children Book
  • Judy Lopez Memorial Award Honor Book


Viola Canales is the author of the award-winning The Tequila Worm, a young adult novel published in 2007 by Random House. The novel has received considerable acclaim for its positive portrayal of Mexican-American culture, including being designated a Notable Book by the American Library Association, winning the Pura Belpré Medal for Narrative, and receiving the PEN Center USA Award. In 2012, the Spanish language version, El Gusano de Tequila, was released by KingCake Press.

In addition to The Tequila Worm, Canales has also published a collection of short stories titled Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (Piñata Books, 2001). According to the publisher, it is a series of tales inhabiting “the mysterious and secret land that lies between the United States and Mexico, between child and adulthood, reality and imagination, and between life and death. These haunting stories not only reveal, layer by layer, the fantastic in the ordinary, but, most importantly, the powerful and healing magic inside all of us.”

Most recently, Canales has expanded her repertoire into poetry with a bilingual book, The Little Devil and the Rose: Lotería Poems // El diablito y la rosa: Poems de la lotería, published by the University of Houston in 2014. Like her fiction, this poetic venture has been well received. Diego Baéz, a CantoMundo Fellow, has called it “a lively addition to Chicana literature.”

Throughout her publications, readers can discern the influence of her family background and history. As she has forthrightly expressed in various interviews, Canales’ background was a combination of poverty and privilege, Mexican-American culture and Anglo practices, Spanish and English. Much of her writing hints at how she came to realize and grapple with those disparities. In an authors’ description published by Random House, she expresses that “her barrio felt so wonderfully rich with the magic and mystery of traditions, family, friends, and foods that she didn’t realize she was poor until she won at a scholarship at the age of 15” to attend a prestigious boarding school in Austin, Texas – far from family.

Perhaps it was during her time at the boarding school that Canales began to most firmly grasp the differences between the world in which she was raised and the wider world of preconceptions about Mexican-American culture. She has written that the school helped her by fostering “her lifelong love of literature” and introducing her to “another mundo.” At the same time, however, it also made her “so homesick that she started writing stories – to conjure up her family and the barrio that she missed so much” (Random House Children’s Books). Out of these different experiences, Canales began to plant the seeds which would become the warm and engaging stories which would later earn her accolades as a published author.

By actively drawing on her background, Canales’ publications affirm the importance and richness of Mexican-American culture. Moreover, in actively counteracting negative representations of her people’s culture and history, she has developed into a significant Chicana writer, particularly for young readers. She openly discusses this social justice aspect of her writing when, in a Harvard Magazine article, she explains that she wrote The Tequila Worm in part to promote more positive representations of Mexican-American people – as well as to help people everywhere who are marginalized by mainstream society. “Even though this is a story of a Mexican-American girl,” she says of her work, “it is talking about people who are poor and who have come from outside communities, and about how the majority of society sees them and what they do with their rituals and traditions. We are so tired of stories of gangs and drugs. Tequila Worm really celebrates the positive side of our culture—the family, the spirituality, the food, and the music.”

Although the excellence of her publications would suggest a lifetime dedicated to literature, hers has not been the typical career of an author. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Canales has served as a field organizer for the United Farm Workers, an officer in the U.S. Army, a lawyer with a private firm in Los Angeles, and a presidential-appointment of the Small Business Administration under the Clinton Administration. When not spending time with her family in McAllen, Texas, she teaches courses at the Stanford Law School in Stanford, California. She also travels extensively to schools, colleges, libraries, and community centers to talk about her work and inspire other students to overcome obstacles and accomplish their dreams.

If you’re interested in learning more about the author, check out the following article/interview:

Lastly,  here’s a book trailer video to accompany the novel:


The following lesson plans are comprised of two sections:

  • A short section of suggested activities that can be used before, during or after the reading of the novel which are organized thematically by different subject areas
  • Guided reading questions organized by parts of the book and extended response writing prompts.   These questions have been written to support the types of reading and critical thinking skills required in standardized reading comprehension tests.  The following key words and skills are highlighted: analyze, infer, evaluate, describe, support, explain, summarize, compare, contrast and predict.

In addition to the lesson plans and activities included here, see related curricula:

Social Studies

Cultural Celebrations and Traditions:

Numerous traditions and celebrations are highlighted in the novel The Tequila Worm.  Two that play a more prominent role are the quinceañera and Día de los Muertos.  Below we’ve highlighted different resources for teaching about both.  These would be great extension activities to use once students have completed the novel.


En la Clase: Teaching About Quinceañeras

In this blog post we highlight a number of available resources for teaching about quinceañeras, including literature resources, a unit for a Spanish class, and a unit for a comparative study of quinceañearas and Sweet 16s.

Educator’s Guide for Estrella’s Quinceañera

Here you’ll find a guide to Malin Alegria’s young adult novel, Estrella’s Quinceañera, along with other materials to support teaching about quinceañeras.

Día de los Muertos:

LAII Educator’s Guide to Día de los Muertos

Compiled by the Latin American & Iberian Institute, this extensive guide includes background information on Día de los Muertos, a bibliography of suggested readings, and activities based around reading, writing, and Guided Language Acquisition Development (GLAD) strategies.

Vamos a Leer Día de los Muertos Posts

Developed by the Latin American & Iberian Institute, our Vamos a Leer blog includes many resources relevant to teaching about Día de los Muertos, including reviews of children’s books and young adult books, and classroom activities.

Guided Reading Questions

Chapter One: The Storyteller’s Bag | Pages 1-5

  1. Barrio is a Spanish word.  What does it mean in English? (p. 1)
  2. How did the barrio become one family? (p. 1)
  3. Who is Dona Clara? Why does everyone look forward to her visits? (p. 1)
  4. Describe what Dona Clara looks like. (p. 1-2)
  5. Who is Sofia like? What does she have in common with this person? (p. 2)
  6. Who is Berta like? What does she have in common with this person? (p.3)
  7. When Clara visits the year Sofia is 6, what has changed about Clara? (p. 4)
  8. What does Mama do when Clara can’t tell her stories anymore? (p. 4)
  9. What is a comadre? Do you know anyone like this? Who? Describe them. (p. 5)

Chapter Two: The Candy Bite | Pages 6-9

  1. Why doesn’t Sofia want to be friends with Berta anymore? (p. 6-7)
  2. How does Mama respond when Sofia explains why she doesn’t like Berta?  What would you have done if you were Mama? Why? (p. 7)
  3. The next day when Sofia sees Berta with a chocolate bar, what happens? How do their mother’s deal with it? (p. 8-9).

Chapter Three: The Holy Host | Pages 10-16

  1. How old was Sofia when she made her First Communion? What did she practice with? (p. 10)
  2. What does Sofia tell the little kids will happen if a nun dies? Do you think this is true? (p. 11)
  3. What is the rule about eating and communion? (p. 12)
  4. Why is the host so important, according to Sofia? What does Sofia think will happen if the host accidentally comes out of your mouth? Do you think this is what they really taught at catechism?  Or, did Sofia misunderstand? (p. 13)
  5. Do you think Berta knew that it was too close to communion for Sofia to take a bite of her chocolate bar? Why? Explain your answer. (p. 13)
  6. What does Sofia do with her wafer? (p. 14)
  7. How does Mama know that Sofia is hiding something? (p. 15)
  8. How does Mama deal with the holy wafer in Sofia’s shirt? (p. 16)

Chapter Four: Easter Cascarones | Pages 17-25

  1. Why is Sofia’s family eating so many eggs? What do they do with each egg? Does Mama have to do anything special to cook the eggs? (p. 17-18)
  2. How many egg cartons does Sofia’s family have when she thinks they’ve won? How many does Berta say her family has? If each carton is full, how many eggs have these two families eaten? (p. 18)
  3. Is Sofia’s father worried that they don’t have enough eggs? (p. 19)
  4. What do they do with the egg shells? (p. 19)
  5. How does Sofia feel about 20 cartons of eggs after they’ve colored 5 of the cartons? (p. 21)
  6. What does Papa surprise the girls with? How will this make coloring all the egg shells easier? (p. 22)
  7. What does Papa fill the eggs with? What does Sofia fill her special egg with? (p. 22-23)
  8. How do they cover the hole in each egg? (p. 23)
  9. What are the egg shells called in Spanish? (p. 23)
  10. Where does Sofia’s family go after Mass to celebrate Easter? What kinds of foods do they prepare?  Does your family celebrate Easter? If you do, how do you celebrate the holiday? (p. 24)
  11. What do the grown-ups do with the cascarones?  What do the children do with the cascarones? (p. 24)
  12. What was in Sofia’s secret egg? Who did she smash it on? What did Berta put in her secret egg? Who did Lucy’s secret egg end up on? What was in it? (p. 25)
  13.  How does Sofia’s attitude toward her sister change at the end of the story? Do you think she still wishes she had a big sister instead? (p. 25)

Chapter Five: Skulls and Quarters | Pages 26-35

  1. What does bruja mean in English? What is the difference between a curandera and a bruja? What does a curandera do?
  2. How did Sofia meet a curandera over the summer? What happened to Lucy that caused her to need a curandera? (p. 27)
  3. Who is Belia? Why does this surprise Sofia? (p. 28)
  4. What does Belia do to cure Lucy of susto? (p 28)
  5. Why does Sofia like Halloween so much? (p. 29)
  6. How would you describe Mama’s costume making? Explain your answer. (p. 29-30)
  7. What does Sofia get in her Halloween bag? Why is she disappointed by this? What did Berta get the year before? (p. 30-31)
  8. What does the other side of town look like on Halloween? What does Sofia see when she looks out the car window? (p. 31)
  9. Where does Mama take Sofia the day after Halloween? What does Sofia learn about the skulls? What are they connected to? (p. 32)
  10. Why did Virginia create an altar? What did she place on it? What tradition is this for?
  11. What does Mama explain to Sofia about the altar? (p. 34)
  12. How does Papa describe what he’s going to show Sofia? What does Sofia see when he takes her to the cemetery? Why do you think Papa wants Sofia to see this? (p. 34-35)
  13. Why does Sofia want to live on the other side of town? What does Papa say in response to this? (p. 35)

Chapter 6: Taco Head | Pages 35-40

  1. What did Sofia take for lunch each day? What did Mama have to do to prepare this? What does Sofia really want to take for lunch? (p. 36)
  2. Why doesn’t Sofia want to take tacos for lunch? Have you ever heard anyone made fun of for their lunch? Did you do anything about it? How does Sofia avoid getting made fun of? (p. 37)
  3. What happens on the day that Sofia gets called Taco Head? (p. 37-38)
  4. What advice does Coach Clarke give Sofia? Do you think this is helpful advice? (p. 38)
  5. Why do you think Coach Clarke asks Sofia to eat with her? What does she do to help Sofia solver her lunch problem? (p. 38-39)
  6. What does Sofia learn about Coach Clarke? (p. 39)
  7. What advice does Coach Clarke give Sofia about kicking? Does she encourage her to actually kick the girl who made fun of her? (p. 39-40)
  8. How does Sofia ‘kick’ the girl who made fun of her? Do you think this is good advice? Is it easy advice to follow when you’re angry or hurt? Is it worth doing anyway? (p. 40)

Chapter 7: The Fancy School | Pages 41-49

  1. Why does Sofia panic when she gets the note to see Mr. Thomas? What grade is Sofia in now? (p. 41)
  2. What does Mr. Thomas tell Sofia? (p. 42)
  3. What does Sofia think of the school when she sees the pamphlet? What is the one problem with this school? (p. 42-43) What do you think—would you go to a boarding school where you had to live away from your family? Why or why not?
  4. What is Berta’s response to the idea of the boarding school? How far away is Austin? What state is Austin in? (p. 44)
  5. How does Sofia explain why she really wants to go?
  6. What is sobremesa?  What does Lucy share at sobremesa? Why does this make it harder for Sofia to share about the school? (p. 45-46)
  7. How does Mama respond to the news about the boarding school? How does Papa respond to the news about the boarding school? Even though Mama and Papa talk about two different things, their responses have something in common, what? What types of things do they refer? (p. 47-48)
  8. What does Papa say that he and Mama want for Sofia? How can Sofia get this? (p. 49)
  9. What does Mama say will have to happen as part of the decision-making process? (p. 49)
  10. What will be the hardest and scariest part of leaving for Sofia? (p. 49)

Chapter 8: My Plastic Tia | Pages 50-60

  1. When Sofia takes the scholarship test, has her family made a decision about the boarding school? (p. 50)
  2. How is Saint Luke’s different from Sofia’s high school? (p. 51-52)
  3. What kinds of questions does Mr. Weld ask Sofia? (p. 51)
  4. How much will Sofia’s family have to pay for her to attend Saint Luke’s? Does Mr. Weld think this is a lot of money? Does Sofia think this is a lot of money? What does this tell us about the differences between Mr. Weld’s economic situation and Sofia’s? (p. 52)
  5. Compare how Sofia responds to Mr. Weld’s presentation with how her family and Berta respond.  Why do you think they respond differently? Where does Mama say they must go before they make a decision? (p. 53)
  6. What is everything in Tia Petra’s house wrapped in? Why does she do this? (p. 53-54)
  7. Who is Tia Petra to Sofia? Why is it important that Sofia talk to Tia Petra about the scholarship to Saint Luke’s? (p. 55-56)
  8. How does Tia Petra explain to Sofia what education means? Is it just about school?
  9. What does Tia Petra say it means to be a good comadre? (p. 56)
  10. What statement is Tia Petra making when she wraps Sofia up in plastic? (p. 58)
  11. What does Tia Petra say to Sofia and Berta when they’re alone? What does Berta have to do in order to be Sofia’s comadre? How does this conversation change how Sofia feels about Berta? (p. 59-60)

Chapter 9: Cleaning Beans | Pages 61-71

  1. What does Papa do every Tuesday? (p. 61)
  2. How does Papa clean the pound of pinto beans every week? How does this process make Papa feel? Is there you anything you do that makes you feel this way? (p. 62)
  3. What does Papa teach Sofia about beans? What does he compare them to? (p. 62)
  4. How does Papa cook the beans? (p. 63-64)
  5. How do Papa and Sofia prefer their beans? (p. 64)
  6. What does this exchange between Papa and Sofia tell you about her relationship with her father? How does it compare to your relationship with your father? (p. 62-64)
  7. How is Mama different from Papa? Think about what she does when she gets comes home from the grocery.  How does Mama like to cook beans? (p. 65-66)
  8. Who is Sofia more like her Papa or her Mama? Explain. (p. 67-69)
  9. What lesson about being a comadre does Papa teach Sofia? How will this help her convince Mama and Lucy to let her go to Saint Luke’s? What must Sofia do to connect with Mama? (p. 68-71)

Chapter 10: The Drive-In | Pages 72-79

  1. Describe Mama’s routine at the drive-in.  What are the typical things she does to prepare for watching the movie? (p. 73-74)
  2. Sofia realizes that Berta has changed.  How is Berta different now? (p. 74-75)
  3. What does Berta think of the movie? How can you tell? How does this show that she and Sofia have changed? (p. 76-77)
  4. As the movie ends, Sofia understands something about herself and what she wants—what is it? How are her wants different from Berta’s or Mama’s? (p. 78-79)

Chapter 11: Berta’s Quinceañera | Pages 80-91

  1. How can Sofia support Berta’s dream? What can she do for her? (p. 81)
  2. What deal do Berta and Sophia make? Make a prediction: Do you think Berta will be able to convince Mama to let Sofia go to Saint Luke’s? (p. 82)
  3. How does Berta’s quinceañera help her to learn how to be a comadre? (p. 84)
  4. What does Berta say that Sofia needs to do in order to prove to Mama that she should go to Saint Luke’s? (p. 84-85)
  5. What surprise is waiting for Sofia at the hotel? (p. 85-86)
  6. Why does Papa teach Sofia to dance the lead to “Julia”? How does this help Sofia connect with her mother? (p. 86-89)
  7. How are Sofia’s and Berta’s dreams connected? (p. 89-90)
  8. What does Sofia feel once she has her parents’ blessing to go? (p. 91) Make a connection: How would you feel about leaving your family to go away to school?

Chapter 12: Five “New” Dresses | Pages 92-100

  1. What are Sofia’s two big problems? Who is going to help her solve them? (p. 92-93)
  2. What is the most daunting thing for Sofia about going to Saint Luke’s? Why is she worried about this? What school memory resurfaces because of her worry? (p. 93-94)
  3. Why doesn’t Sofia want to ask others to help her buy the dresses she needs? How does this show that she’s like Papa? (p. 95-96)
  4. What is Berta’s plan for getting the last two dresses that Sofia needs?  Why does this worry Sofia? (p. 97-99)
  5. How does Sofia help Berta while she’s making the dresses? (p. 100)

Chapter 13: The Packing Shed | Pages 101-111

  1. What is Sofia’s plan for getting the $400? (p. 103)
  2. Why is it so hard for Sofia to find a job? (p. 105)
  3. Where does Sofia find a job?  Do you think this is easy work? (p. 106-107)
  4. What surprises Sofia about the other people that work at the packing shed? (p. 108)
  5. How many hours does Sofia work each day? (p. 108)
  6. What happens during Sofia’s last month at the packing shed? Why does this surprise her so much? (p. 110)
  7. What does Sofia see in Mama for the first time? (p. 111)

Chapter 14: The Canicula | Pages 112-124

  1. What is the canicula? How does Mama explain what it means? (p. 113)
  2. How do Sofia and Berta make Lucy feel included? (p. 117-118)
  3. How is the canicula different for the girls than it was for Mama when she was their age? (p. 120)
  4. How do they celebrate Sofia’s birthday that evening? (p. 120-124)
  5. What does Sofia’s family put her gifts in? What gifts do they give her? How is each of the gifts meaningful or special? (p. 122-123)
  6. Sofia has wanted to go to Saint Luke’s for so long, but now she begins to doubt? What causes her to doubt? (p. 124)
  7. Papa gives Sofia one last gift.  Does she open it? Make a prediction: What do you think is in it? (p. 124)
  8. Why can Sofia finally start packing? (p. 124)

Chapter 15: Another Mundo | Pages 125-135

  1. What does Sofia pack to take with her to Saint Luke’s? What does Mama give her? (p. 125-126)
  2. What does Berta think the girls at Saint Luke’s will think about the compadre props? (p. 126)
  3. Why does Mama tell Sofia to order a big plate of enchiladas? (p. 127)
  4. Why do you think that Sofia can’t eat her breakfast? How would you feel if you were Sofia? (p. 128)
  5. Both Mama and Berta wonder where certain things are like the panaderia or the drive-in.  Do you think those things are anywhere near Saint Luke’s? Why or why not? How is Saint Luke’s going to be different from what Sofia is accustomed to? How might it compare to that Halloween when she wanted to go to ‘the other side’ of town? (p. 128)
  6. What does Mama think of the first girl they meet in the dormitory? (p. 131)
  7. Make an inference: Do you think Mama, Papa, Berta and Lucy like the dormitory at Saint Luke’s? Do you think they want Sofia to stay there? Why or why not? (p. 131)
  8. Why do you think it’s so important to Mama that she set up Sofia’s room altar? What does it mean or symbolize to Mama? (p. 132-133)
  9. Sofia has met two different girls, Brooke and Terry.  Compare the two girls.  How are they alike? How are they different? Make a prediction: Do you think that Sofia will get along with her roommate Brooke? Why? (p. 130-133)
  10. What is Mama going to do with the sock and lock of Sofia’s hair? How is this typical of Mama? Think of the other kinds of things she’s created. (p. 135)
  11. How does Sofia feel when her family leaves? Imagine you were Sofia, how would you feel, left alone at a school far from home where you didn’t know anyone? What does this say about Sofia’s character? What kind of traits would one need to have in order to do something like this? (p. 135)
  12. What do you think Sofia means when she says “I suddenly remembered Papa’s words of many years before, that our side of town had it’s own wealth and warmth.  I finally understood what he’d meant” (p. 135).  What did he mean? What is the wealth of the warmth of Sofia’s side of town?

Chapter 16: Saints at Saint Luke’s | Pages 136-146

  1. What is Terry crying about? Make an inference: based on what you know of Terry so far, how would you describe her? How is she different from Sofia? How is her family different from Sofia’s?  Do you think these differences represent the wealth and warmth that Papa was referring to? (p. 136-137)
  2. What do you think Sofia means when she says “And I had thought getting the dresses was going to be the hard part” (p. 137)?  What has she realized is going to be harder?
  3. What is a parvenu? (p. 138)
  4. Why doesn’t Sofia tell Mr. Smith about her summer? How does her summer compare to Charles’ summer break? (p. 140-141)
  5. What does Marcos think of the dorms? Why do you think the chocolate makes him feel like he’s back in McAllen? (p. 141)
  6. What happens in Sofia’s first English class? (p. 142-143)
  7. How does Brooke’s approach to field hockey demonstrate a larger difference between her and Sofia and their approaches to life and relationships? (p. 143-144)
  8. What starts happening to the different pieces of Sofia’s room altar? Why might someone be doing this to her? Who do you think is doing it? (p. 144-145)
  9. How does Sofia find out who is behind taking the pieces of her altar?  Why do you think Terry would do something like that? How does Sofia deal with it? Do you think that was the appropriate response? (p. 146)

Chapter 17: The Panty-Hose Baby | Pages 148-157

  1. Why do you think the school works so hard to fill the students’ days from sun-up to sun-down? What effect does this have on the students? Think about what Brooke said about her brother Tiff. (p. 148-149)
  2. Why do you think Sofia needs to write the story about her family? What does it do for her? (p. 149-150)
  3. What did Mama send in her first package? What other kinds of things does Mama send? (p. 150-154)
  4. What does the doll for Clara look like? (p. 155)
  5. What do Marcos and Clara realize about the school? What are the priorities for the students at Saint Luke’s? How are these things different from the things that Sofia’s has been taught to value? (p. 156)

Chapter 18: The Frozen Tamales | Pages 158-169

  1. What does Marcos compare Saint Luke’s to? Do you think this is true? (p. 159)
  2. Think about Terry’s comment about Mexicans and death and then compare it to the story Marcos told Skip from his dorm.  How do the students at Saint Luke’s appear to deal with and think about death? How does this demonstrate a difference between the culture Sofia and Marcos grew up in and the culture of the majority of students at Saint Luke’s? Do you think one is healthier than the other? Why? (p. 160-161)
  3. Why won’t Mama let Sofia eat the tamales from the freezer? What is she saving them for? How does this demonstrate the different approaches in dealing with death between Sofia’s family and the Saint Luke’s community? (p. 162-163)
  4. What does Sofia learn about Berta’s plans for the future? How do they compare to Sofia’s? (164)
  5. What do the girls do with the tequila worm? (p. 165-166)
  6. Did covering everything in plastic really save Tia Petra’s things? What could be the lesson from this story? (p. 168)
  7. What does Sofia’s family eat for Thanksgiving? What does your family eat for Thanksgiving? Is the same or different? (p. 169)
  8. What is Sofia’s role in the family’s Christmas nacamiento going to be? What does this mean? (p. 169)

Chapter 19: The Christmas Nacameinto | Pages 170-181

  1. What is the Christmas celebration like at Saint Luke’s? (p. 170-171)
  2. What do Brooke and Sofia exchange for Christmas? How does each girl explain their gift to the other? (p. 171)
  3. Do you think Sofia trusts Brooke as a friend? Why or why not? (p. 171-172)
  4. What do Mama and Abuelita think about the ways the town and neighborhoods have changed? How do they think it should be? What does this show that they value? (p. 174-175)
  5. The nacamiento represents the Christmas story, but it also represents something else.  What do you think that is? Think about the memories that Abuelita talks about, and the things that Sofia remembers as she unwraps the different pieces. (p. 175-178)
  6. What do you think Sofia learns from the experience of being the Christmas madrina? (p. 178-181)
  7. How does Papa want Sofia to conjure him once he’s gone? (p. 181)

Chapter 20: The Tequila Worm | Pages 182-193

  1. What things change by the summer after Sofia’s junior year? (p. 182-183)
  2. What does Lucy reveal to Sofia about Papa? Why didn’t Papa want Sofia to know?
  3. How can Sofia tell that Papa is sick? (p. 184)
  4. Why doesn’t Papa want Sofia to transfer high schools? (p. 184)
  5. Why is Papa hanging on? What does Tia Belia tell Sofia she needs to do? Do you that was an easy thing for Sofia to do? (p. 185)
  6. What was in the secret cascarone? Why do you think Papa left this for Sofia? (p. 190)
  7. How does Papa’s death change Sofia’s focus in life? (p. 190)
  8. How do Brooke and Marcos comfort Sofia after she’s lost her father? (p. 191-193)

Chapter 21: The Plaza | Pages 194-

  1. How has Sofia’s barrio changed over time? (p. 194-195)
  2. How does Sofia attempt to combat the negative changes in the barrio?
  3. What changes with the creation of the placita?

Reflective Writing Questions

  1. How does Sofia change throughout the story? Think about what she was like as a little girl, the things she learned growing up, the realizations she had while at going to Saint Luke’s.  Use these things to support your answer.
  2. Throughout the book Canales stresses the importance of family.  Describe Berta’s role in the family.  Is she ‘technically’ a member of Sofia’s family? Do they treat her like a family? How does Sofia refer to Berta? Think about what family means to you.  Does family always have to be the people we’re related to by birth or marriage? Who do you think of as your family?
  3. Cultural traditions and celebrations play an important role in Sofia’s life.  Describe this role.  Why were they so important or significant? What did Sofia learn from these?
  4. Sofia’s family and traditions are incredibly influential in making her the person she is.  How has your family influenced you? What traditions does your family keep? What do  traditions mean to you? Have you learned anything from them?
  5. Sofia is close to everyone in her family and she learns something from all of them.  Choose the relationship that resonates the most with you (for example Sofia’s relationship with her mother, with Berta, with her father, with Lucy).  Describe the relationship and what Sofia learned from that person.  Then explain why you choose that relationship to write about.


Written by staff at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII), Vamos a Leer Educators Guides provide an excellent way to teach about Latin America through literacy.  Each guide is based upon a book featured in the Vamos a Leer book group.  For more materials that support teaching about Latin America in the classroom, visit the LAII website. This guide was prepared October/2014 by Lorraine Archibald, LAII Graduate Assistant, and Katrina Dillon, LAII Project Assistant.


6 thoughts on “Educator’s Guide: The Tequila Worm

  1. Pingback: Celebrating Pura Belpré Award Winners: Spotlight on The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales | Latinxs in Kid Lit

    • Hello! Thanks for stopping by. We don’t provide the answers to the study guide, as the majority of questions are open-ended reflections about the text.

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