Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tortilla Sun

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes ARC

Release Date: May 5, 2010 (Cinco de Mayo!)

Rating: 4/5

IQ "Sometimes we long for what the world tells us is missing and miss what is right in front of us." Socorro pg. 214

Tortilla Sun tells the story of twelve-year-old Isadora (Izzy) Roybal and what happens to her one summer. Izzy finds an old baseball belonging to her father with the words "because...magic". Izzy is on a mission to figure out the two missing words in the phrase. She never met her father, who died before she was born, and she hopes that filling in the phrase will help her to learn more about her father and to connect with him. Izzy's mother doesn't talk about her father, but when she sends Izzy to New Mexico to stay with her Nana, Izzy learns about her family, magic, friendship and how to make tortillas.

This is another one of those books where you need to eat while you read. Preferably, Mexican food. You should also eat tortillas when writing your review of Tortilla Sun. OK ok, I'll stop talking about food (now I'm hungry). Anyway, Tortilla Sun really is a cute, magically delicious read. Izzy is a kind main character and you will be anxious for her to discover the truth about her father, including how she died. While I read the book I grew frustrated at Izzy's mom for keeping secrets from Izzy and refusing to tell her how she died, however by the end of the book I understood why she kept it a secret. Besides being kind, Izzy is a good athlete and tough. She's got a good arm and she can run very fast. While she doesn't play on any teams she does play sports for fun and I enjoyed reading about a girl athlete in a middle grade book :) Mateo was sweet as well. My only complaint was that he wasn't really necessary. I liked him, but he could have easily been a girl friend of Izzy's, but then again, twelve is the age when you start to figure how "being in like" and having crushes. The cutest character though is Maggie and her cat, Frida. Maggie is six and an orphan, she loves with her grandmother and is utterly precocious. Her cat Frida is having an identity crisis and thinks she's a dog. Finally, Nana is the piece de resistance (I will continue to make food metaphors throughout this review because I can *evil cackle*). She's the typical Mexican grandmother; small, wise and loving. She also likes to tweak known sayings "But I am just pink and joy that you are here for the entire summer."
"You mean tickled pink?"[Izzy asks]
"No. [....] Those cliches are just for unoriginal people. I use words that feel right, not sound right." (pg. 43). The other characters are lovely as well, they add humor (especially Mateo and his mother, Mrs. Castillo), sadness, magic and even more heart to the story.

I admit, at first I wasn't so sure how I would like magic being inserted in Tortilla Sun. But it works. The magic has more to do with the works of curanderas and legends being passed down along with listening to ancestors. I grew to really enjoy the magic scenes, especially as the mystery of Socorro (a curandera with white streaks in her hair who can see a tortilla in the moon) unravels. I also really wanted to know the missing words and I began guessing along with Izzy and the clues are all there as to the missing words, but I somehow managed to overlook them. Izzy is also an aspiring writer and I think the advice she received on writing is quite useful, we both struggle with finishing a story and I just may take the advice Izzy receives about writing down an idea and powering through to the end.

Tortilla Sun is a savory story that brims with family, friends, fun, magic, tortillas and baseball, this combination makes for a very satisfying read. With a genuine group of characters, the beautiful setting of a New Mexican village and lots of food, this book left me eager to read more by Jennifer Cervantes. She is a very talented debut author who manages to cleverly weave together a few different storylines and the result is heartwarming.

Disclosure: Received from publisher. Thank you!


  1. I love the idea of books that need to be read while eating! I am a huge fan of very detailed food descriptions myself :-)

  2. I think this one sounds really good and one that I should add to my classroom shevles. I didn't know it had magic in it, so I'm interested in that as well now!

  3. I was already looking forward to this one--now even more so!

  4. I really want to read this book. Thanks for the review. And I picked up a surprise for you at the PEN World Voices Festival, on its way to you tomorrow.

  5. Okay, I was interested in this book when I first heard of it, but now it's pumped to my top five MUST READ RIGHT NOW BOOKS. You had me a girl athlete. I've been *dying* for more books with girls playing sports. Just dying. *goes off to check if my local bookstore has book in stock*

  6. I LOVE the cover! The book sounds pretty good too, but I think I'll buy it mostly to look at that sun on gray fall days :)

  7. Thanks so much for the wonderful review and to all your readers for their supportive and thoughtful comments. You have all really made my day...smiling from ear to ear :)

    Jen Cervantes

  8. @Aarti-Me too, nothing like a good book AND good food :)

    @Jill-I didn't know that either and it's happy magic. I'm tired of dark and gloomy magic so this was a nice change. I definite must read book for middle school students.

    @Charlotte-Yay, it comes out today so at least you won't have to wait long!

    @Lyn-Let me know if you want my copy. Oooo, I LOVE surprises, thank you!

    @Ah Yuan-Haha wow, top 5 is good. I love reading about girl athletes. It is middle grade (I'm not sure if you read MG?), but so cute and fun and happy/sad. I hope your library does have it in stock!

    @Niranjana-I should add that, I adore this cover! It's so cheerful and so perfect to look at on a rainy/depressing day =)

    @Jen Cervantes-Thank you for stopping by! Happy release day :D

  9. Yes, I would like your copy. Thanks! In return, I can send you Marina Budhos's new YA, Tell Us We're Home.

  10. lawl I *totally* read MG. Some of my favourite authors are MG (Laurence Yep, Cynthia Kadohata, Frances Hardinge, and I'm newly converted to Kashmira Sheth...)

  11. @Lyn-Ok I'll email you tonight for your address. Yay for Marina Budhos! I LOVE Ask Me No Questions.

    @Ah Yuan-Oh I totally remember our conversation about Laurence Yep and reading your reviews of Cynthia Kadohata and Frances Hardinge. What title did you read by Kashmira Sheth (she has some YA some MG).

  12. Ari,
    This sounds like a good intro to magical realism for readers. Do you think it should go on my summer reading list for 7-9th graders?


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