Tortilla Sun

by Jennifer Cervantes
ages: 10+
First sentence: “I stared at the glossy image.”
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Izzy has just moved, again, and is looking forward to a summer getting to know people in her neighborhood so she’s not the new kid at school. Again. But then her mom drops a bombshell: she’s off to Costa Rica to finish research for her dissertation, which means Izzy has to spend the summer with her Nana in a small village outside of Albuquerque. This is not what Izzy wants. At all.

And yet, once she’s there she discovers that learning her heritage is much more interesting than she gave it credit for. Her nana is interesting, fun, full of life. Her neighbor, Mateo, is intriguing. But more than that, she slowly learns the story of her father who died before she was born, something which her mother hasn’t been willing to share. And that may be the greatest gift of all.

It’s a sweet story, one that’s full of vibrant color and life. Even though it was a parent dying book — in fact, there was quite a bit of death and trauma in this book — much like Milo, it focused on healing and understanding and celebrating the life of the one who’s dead, rather than mourning. It felt natural and celebratory rather than depressing. There was a bit of magical realism, but only a touch and that added to the healing tone of the book. Yes, there was conflict, and Izzy needed to learn lessons and grow a bit (and there was a few tense moments near the end), but it was a happy book, one that celebrates life and family and traditions.

A great first novel; I’ll be quite interested to see what Cervantes comes up with next.

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