From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Sofia, 14, lives in McAllen, TX. What she lacks in material possessions, she makes up for in personality and intelligence. When she is called a taco head by a student at her school, she decides to kick that girl by getting better grades and being a better soccer player than her tormentor. As a result of this determination, Sofia is offered a scholarship to the elite Saint Lukes school in Austin. Now she must convince her family and herself that she is up to the challenge. Canales includes vivid descriptions of life in a Mexican-American community. Her prose is engaging and easy to read, making this novel a good choice for reluctant readers. The momentum slows a bit after Sofias arrival in Austin in contrast to the portion of the book set in McAllen. Still, the story is a good addition to most collections.–Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX
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*Starred Review* 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
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