The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales

Summary: Gr. 6-9. From an early age, Sofia has watched the comadres in her close-knit barrio community, in a small Texas town, and she dreams of becoming "someone who makes people into a family," as the comadres do. The secret, her young self observes, seems to lie in telling stories and "being brave enough to eat a whole tequila worm." In this warm, entertaining debut novel, Canales follows Sofia from early childhood through her teen years, when she receives a scholarship to attend an exclusive boarding school. Each chapter centers on the vivid particulars of Mexican American traditions--celebrating the Day of the Dead, preparing for a cousin's quinceanera. The explanations of cultural traditions never feel too purposeful; they are always rooted in immediate, authentic family emotions, and in Canales' exuberant storytelling, which, like a good anecdote shared between friends, finds both humor and absurdity in sharply observed, painful situations--from weathering slurs and other blatant harassment to learning what it means to leave her community for a privileged, predominately white school. Readers of all backgrounds will easily connect with Sofia as she grows up, becomes a comadre, and helps rebuild the powerful, affectionate community that raised her. Gillian Engberg Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Themes: Leadership, Family, Traditions, Identity, Community, Privilege, Prejudice

Classroom Implications: This book speaks to the development of a child's identity within her Mexican-American heritage. Many traditions are interwoven through the text that help celebrate and educate around Mexican-American traditions. The book is entertaining, but also delicately tackles white privilege and prejudice. This notion of white privilege is also covered in Woodson's If You Come Softly and would make an interesting parallel text for this piece.


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