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The Tequila Worm Hardcover – August 9, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (August 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385746741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385746748
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,763,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sherry York on August 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sophia's early years are spent with her wonderful, supportive Mexican-American family and friends in South Texas. When she has the opportunity to attend an elite boarding school on scholarship, Sophia must make a decision that will affect her future and her family. Canales combines cultural details, vivid characters, and humerous and touching situations into a realistic and involving growing-up story that transcends culture and ethnicity.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John E. Portmann on August 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Looking for a present for a friend's daughter, I came upon The Tequila Worm. The warm, evocative prose drew me into the story of Sofia and pulled me along so smoothly that I forgot about time. I remember having read a fascinating piece in the New York Times a year ago or so about quinceanera and its place in Latino culture. I enjoyed reading about Sofia's reaction to this sort of cotillion, her apprehension of enrolling in a WASPy boarding school far from home, and her idea of applying to Harvard. Sofia lives the American Dream, but without turning her back on family. Well, I'll have to get a new copy for my friend's daughter -- my copy stays with me, even though I am an adult. I will read it again someday.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Louise Katz on August 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sofia Casas, the heroine of The Tequila Worm,is the best storyteller-heroine of a young adult book since Harriet the Spy. When the book begins, Sofia is growing up in the barrio of a border town in Texas, with magical rituals and wacky relatives (imagine being wrapped in a beige blanket to go trick or treating as a bean taco!). When the opportunity to attend a fancy Anglo boarding school comes along, Sofia is eager to leave her old world behind. Her quest to persuade her family to allow her to go, and then to earn the extra money, is simultaneously funny and deeply moving. And ultimately, she learns to keep hold of her traditional culture and become a "comadre" even as she moves into a new world.

Sometimes, The Tequila Worm made me laugh out loud. Sometimes it brought a lump to my throat. It's the kind of book you'll read again and again, and each time through, you'll notice something new about the exotic world it brings to life, and about the story teller's craft.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Gentry on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Sofia, a Mexican-American girl from the Rio Grande Valley town of McAllen, Texas, studies while her best friend dreams of her quinceanera. To achieve her dream of attending the private academy that has awarded her a scholarship, Sofia needs $400, five new dresses, and her mother's permission. Although each of these tasks seem individually insoluble to her, through their accomplishment, she learns the value of having good comadres-and being one.

The reader will follow the story of a young Sofia and cousin Berta from first communion, to Day of the Dead celebrations, and finally to Berta's quinceanera, after which Sofia exits for her private school and new experiences there. The charm, though is in the details of the quiet moments depicted with Sofia's family--telling stories from the storyteller's bag, cleaning pinto beans, and discussing the problems of the day at the sobremesa-and the excellent characterization. The reader can't help but smile at Tia Petra and her penchant for plastic, or at Sofia's bafflement of Berta's newfound enjoyment of sappy charro movies, but mild amusement is not the only emotion that will be provoked during the course of this read. Tequila Worm touches on the reality of death at various points of the story at different levels of reaction, and the reader should not be surprised to learn that this is a build-up to the climax and greatest lesson of the novel as a whole.

The loosely woven chapters of The Tequila Worm are chronological, but can stand alone with their individual lessons of life with family and friends in the small Texas town of McAllen. Canales shows off excellent story-telling skills in this almost-autobiography.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Duncan on December 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This charming novel by Stanford author Viola Canales is a book of stories about a family, a culture and a young girl who is smart enough to appreciate the richness of where she came from when she eventually goes away. In her barrio, Sofia is surrounded by a loving family and a community steeped in tradition. Though she does not want a quinceanera herself, she serves as the dama de honor for her cousin and best friend, Berta, when Berta turns 15. What Sofia really wants is to accept the scholarship she won to an Episcopal boarding school in Austin, 350 miles away. But to do that she needs her parents' permission, five decent dresses, and 400 dollars - each a seemingly insurmountable task. Readers will enjoy following Sofia along the way toward reaching her goal, and the culture shock that greets her at Saint Luke's. She also undoubtedly shocks some of her classmates when she and two friends take her papa's "definitive cure for homesickness": chewing and swallowing a squishy tequila worm. Sometimes humorous and always thoughtful, Canales has taken her own experience and expertly universalized it. Look to The Tequila Worm for a shining example of young adult literature at its best. (Review originally appeared in the Palo Alto Weekly.)
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