ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). On sale October 1, 2012. Tu Books (Lee & Low). 352 pp.
Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a new author, recently winning the Pura Belpré and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Awards for her debut novel “Under the Mesquite.” I absolutely loved that book, and was excited to receive the ARC for her newest book in the mail from Lee & Low.
According to the book jacket summary, “Summer of the Mariposas” is supposed to be a Mexican American retelling of “The Odyssey.” However, since I’d never read “The Odyssey,” any symbolism relating to it was completely lost on me. Thus, any reader who has not read this ancient Greek poem should not feel as if they are “missing out” on anything, but should do as I did and read the book for its own merits.
Ever since their father abandoned them over a year ago, Odilia and her four sisters have felt a void in their lives. Their mother has buried herself in her work, and the girls are left to fend for themselves. To give themselves a sense of togetherness, they created a type of 3 Musketeers pact, in which they stick together through good and bad as the Cinco Hermanitas (Five Sisters.) When they find a dead man in their favorite swimming hole near the U.S./Mexico border, it is decided that they need to bring the man home to his family in Mexico for a proper burial, find the grandmother they haven’t seen in 10 years, and figure out what happened to their father.
Thus begins the fantastical elements of “Summer of the Mariposas,” in which the girls meet all sorts of folkloric Mexican characters like La Llorona (who becomes their guide,) Chupacabra and others in their magical journey through Mexico to return the dead man to his family, meet their grandmother, and return home again. As they successfully make it through trial after trial, the sisters learn the true meanings of love and compassion, not only for each other, but for those around them. Their faith in the miracles performed by the Aztec goddess Tonantzin sustains them throughout their journey, uplifts them when they learn the truth about their father, and allows them to blossom with new life – just like the mariposas (butterflies) that surround them throughout their journey.
“Summer of the Mariposas” is filled with references to the ancient Aztec culture, allowing readers to gain insight into Mexican legends, its culture, and its people. The Author’s Note and Glossary give more information to middle and high school readers who will enjoy the adventures in “Summer of the Mariposas.”