Lupita, the oldest of eight children, must grow up quickly after her mother is diagnosed with cancer. This novel is written in easy-to-read verse style and explores the in-between life that Lupita lives in a border town in Texas; not quite an American, not quite a Mexican. Lupita uses her involvement in the arts more specifically acting and writing to help cope with the anguish she is experiencing at home. She discovers that she has more strength than she knew and that she can depend on her siblings to help her hold the family together.
McCall, G.G. (2011) Under the mesquite. New york, NY: Lee & Low Books Inc.
Part of the reason I wanted to read this book is because of the increasing popularity of novels in verse at the school library where I work. Also we have a growing Hispanic population at my school. I was hoping this might be something I could recommend because from my experience, many teens want to read about a character that is similar to themselves. I was not blown away by this book, but I do think the voice of the narrator, Lupita, is authentic and genuine. I can see how teen girls would be able to relate to her issues and concerns. Also the verse format is easy to read and would be good for reluctant or new-to-English readers.
“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.”
Dobrez, C. (2011, October 1). Under the mesquite [Review of Under the mesquite, by G. McCall.] Booklist 108(3), 90. Retrieved from www.booklistonline.com
I think this book could be used in a variety of ways. Since it is written in verse, it could be tied into April’s National Poetry month in some way. Also, because of its subject matter it could be included in a multi-cultural display or activity of some kind. At our school a multi-cultural celebration ocurrs in April and many English teacher use literature from various cultures and ethnicities in lessons or as the basis of discussions.