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Under the Mesquite Hardcover – September 9, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A resilient Mexican-American girl copes with familial obligation and loss in this free-verse novel. Drawing from her own teen years for inspiration, McCall highlights life in the borderlands: 'En los Estados Unidos / I trained my tongue / and twisted syllables / to form words / that sounded hollow, / like the rain at midnight / dripping into tin pails / through the thatched roof / of our abuelita's house.' Lupita's first-person tale captures pivotal moments of her high-school years in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, with glimpses back at her first six years in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. During her freshman year, Lupita discovers that her mother has cancer. While her mother fights the disease and her father struggles to support the family financially, Lupita sometimes becomes the de facto parental unit for her seven younger siblings. As she worries about food and money, Lupita experiences the typical troubles and triumphs of a teenage girl; her drama teacher, Mr. Cortez, helps her find an outlet for her talent and her pain. Meanwhile, family members continue to draw strength and support from each other on both sides of the border. With poignant imagery and well-placed Spanish, the author effectively captures the complex lives of teenagers in many Latino and/or immigrant families. A promising, deeply felt debut. --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Told in verse sprinkled with Spanish terms (a glossary is included), this story of Lupita s high-school years details her increasing responsibility within her large Mexican American family after Mami is diagnosed with cancer. Caring for seven younger siblings, keeping up with schoolwork and her drama roles, and staying connected with her classmates and friends while the worries gnaw at her take their toll, but she is strong. There are also moments of intense vulnerability. As high-school graduation nears, Lupita sees that her mother may not be there for it: Suddenly I realize / how much I can t control, how much / I am not promised. The close-knit family relationships, especially Mami and Lupita s, are vividly portrayed, as is the healing comfort Lupita finds in words, whether written in her notebooks or performed onstage. --Booklist

I could go on and on about how gorgeous Ms Garcia McCall s writing is and how she seamlessly flits between Spanish and English words and explores two completely different cultures and the issues that come with being uprooted and how perfectly she captures and portrays the emotions that come hand-in-hand with illness in a close, loving family and pain and sadness and hope and about growing up and letting go and looking to the future without forgetting the past and the journey you must go on and maternal love and.... and.... and..... You know what? Just read it and I promise you won t be disappointed. --Wear the Old Coat

A resilient Mexican-American girl copes with familial obligation and loss in this free-verse novel.

Drawing from her own teen years for inspiration, McCall highlights life in the borderlands: En los Estados Unidos / I trained my tongue / and twisted syllables / to form words / that sounded hollow, / like the rain at midnight / dripping into tin pails / through the thatched roof / of our abuelita s house. Lupita s first-person tale captures pivotal moments of her high-school years in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, with glimpses back at her first six years in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. During her freshman year, Lupita discovers that her mother has cancer. While her mother fights the disease and her father struggles to support the family financially, Lupita sometimes becomes the de facto parental unit for her seven younger siblings. As she worries about food and money, Lupita experiences the typical troubles and triumphs of a teenage girl; her drama teacher, Mr. Cortez, helps her find an outlet for her talent and her pain. Meanwhile, family members continue to draw strength and support from each other on both sides of the border. With poignant imagery and well-placed Spanish, the author effectively captures the complex lives of teenagers in many Latino and/or immigrant families.

A promising, deeply felt debut. --Kirkus Reviews

This stunning debut novel in verse chronicles the teenage years of Lupita, a character drawn largely from the author s own childhood...The simplicity of the story line belies the deep richness of McCall s writing. Lupita, a budding actress and poet, describes the new English words she learned as a child to be like lemon drops, tart and sweet at the same time and ears of corn as sweating butter and painted with chili-powdered lime juice. Each phrase captures the essence of a moment or the depth of her pain. The power of Lupita s story lies also in the authenticity of her struggles both large and small, from dealing with her mother s illness to arguments with friends about acculturation. This book will appeal to many teens for different reasons, whether they have dealt with the loss of a loved one, aspire to write and act, are growing up Mexican American, or seeking their own identity amid a large family. Bravo to McCall for a beautiful first effort. --School Library Journal

About the Author

Guadalupe Garcia McCall was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a young girl, keeping close ties with family on both sides of the border. Her poems for adults have appeared in more than a dozen literary journals. She lives near San Antonio, Texas.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books; First Edition edition (September 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600604293
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600604294
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Regina on December 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Beautiful absolutely beautiful. Under the Mesquite is a story about a young girl growing up to adulthood. It is a story about saying good-bye and about the loss of a loved one so integral to one's life that it is impossible to imagine life without them. Under the Mesquite is about a family's journey across the border of one country and into another country and how people make cultural adjustments and acclimate to a new home. And, this story is about going home and how going home can help us figure out how to move forward. Despite the numerous threads of storylines and themes running through this book, it is a short book, written in verse and readable in a few hours. Do not let the style of the book - verse - turn you off from reading this. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of poetry; I just can't attach myself to the words of poetry in the same way I can a story. But this story is different. I immediately became emotionally involved in this story.

The topic of meshing cultures and the journey of emigration is a difficult tale to write. Inevitably, multiple languages must be woven together to write the story; descriptions of cultural rituals - such as cooking - must be described. And it takes a very special author to write these day to day things in a way that is authentic in both the language of the originating country (in this case Mexico) and the language of the new home (USA) and is authentic culturally. Ms. Guadalupe Garcia McCall does this so very well; it is obvious that she has experienced this. Many authors try to make their story appear to contain a bilingual character and to do so, the author translates the occasional word in to, say Spanish.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lupita is the oldest child in a growing family of Mexican-Americans who love each other very much. Even so, she feels her bond with her beloved mother is the closest of all. To prove this, she searches through her mother's purse to find a small, wizened brown thing. It is her umbilical cord. Her Mami saved it.

So begins Guadalupe Garcia McCall's debut book, a novel in free verse that describes Lupita's coming of age. The verses include the longing for Mexico even as their family puts down roots (and plants roses bushes amid which a stubborn mesquite thrives) in Texas, Lupita's discovery of drama class and poetry, and her mother's cancer.

In one of the most dramatic parts of the story, Lupita is put in charge of her younger siblings while her father goes out of town to stay with her hospitalized mother. The children don't obey her, neighbors and relatives resent giving them food for such a prolonged period -- apparently an entire summer -- and Lupita marvels at how easily her mother took care of them.

However, in this section, as in the others, any emotional impact is supplied by the reader. McCall's understated verse is bare bones writing that calls upon her readers to enrich Lupita's small moments and larger journey.

Under the Mesquite won this year's Pura Belpré honors as work that "portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth", as stated on its American Library Association home page. While it's not the best written piece of literature, with poetry on the level of what its young readers will be able to write themselves, it is an important work in putting on the pages of a book experiences that speak directly to young Latino/Latina readers. McCall, herself a teacher, has written a book that will be shared in many classrooms and libraries.
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For full synopsis please see above.

Written in free verse Under the Mesquite is the story of Lupe and her family not only dealing with her mother's illness and death but it is also a view into the life of Mexican-Americans. Wanting their children to have a good education and a better life than possible in Mexico, the family moves to a border town in Texas although they visit their relatives often. We learn about the move, the birth of more siblings, the dad working far away, the siblings relationships, the mom's illness and the aftermath of her death. The writing is beautiful and sprinkled with spanish words and phrases.

Since I now work in a school with many native Spanish speaking students I have already introduced this book to some students. Many have never read a book written in this style and between that and the Spanish they are lining up to check it out. Recommended for 5th grade and up. Read it as an arc courtesy of Lee & Low Books via Netgalley.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Under the Mesquite was a very sweet book. It touched me to see the dedication of the young woman to her family. With all the burden she assumed she never lost sight of her high goals in life. The ties of the young author to her mother were admirable. This young woman was strong and wise beyond her years. I found this story very telling of the warmth, love and duty exemplified in most Mexican families.
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Format: Hardcover
Summary: Lupita's family came to Texas to follow the American dream when she was a child. Her father is always working and her mother's only job is to be a mother. Lupita had a life that she adored- She is the oldest of 8 siblings and has always had a set role in her family: a mini-mom helping her mother raise her siblings. She couldn't ask for anything else. But then Lupita notices her mother acting depressed and crying by the mesquite tree in the rose garden. Then Lupita eavesdrops and learns that her mother has cancer. Now, everything that was predictable and normal about her life are no longer her focus. Will her life ever return to normal again?

What I think: This book is a beautiful book in verse that not only has a touching narrative, but has exquisite verse. The narrative deals with a topic that many readers will have some sort of connection with, cancer, as well has coming of age in a household where the disease has struck. But what makes this book different than other stories about the effects of cancer is that it also tells the story of growing up as a Mexican-American here in America.
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