A fitting addition to the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, Paola Santiago & the River of Tears is an adventure story for lovers of ghost stories, magic and fantasy in the vein of Rick Riordan books and Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon.
Paola and her friends, Emma and Dante, are average 12 year olds living in the small town of Silver Springs, AZ. But when Emma goes missing, Paola and Dante are determined to find her. As they venture into the unknown, Pao & Dante begin to discover that all is not quite as it seems in their sleepy town. As they slip through the barrier dividing the real world from the world of ghosts and demons, Paola is forced to admit that her mother's Latinx ghost stories, so frustrating and quaint to her scientifically-minded daughter, might just be true.
I love that this #ownvoices story brings traditional Latinx folktales and ghost stories to life. Pao is every teen with superstitious parents or grandparents, struggling to reconcile her love for the people with embarrassment at the silly stories they tell, while at the same time wondering if there might be some truth to the stories after all. (turns out, there is!).
Several subjects ripe for discussion are raised throughout the book, including systemic racism within the police force, class differences (and what that means for friendship) and Pao's changing feelings for Dante. These legitimate concerns, primarily on Pao's part, are all threads woven in to the fabric of the story, giving the reader food for thought without interrupting the flow of the story. Paola Santiago & The River of Tears could easily be included as a choice for a social justice book club or it could simply be an entertaining fantasy read for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to @NetGalley for the ARC.
Recommended for Gr 5 and up.
I read this book with my 7 year old, who loves learning about our local Aboriginal culture. The book did a wonderful job of sharing the Gitxsan language and culture along with the story of a grizzly and her 2 cubs as they move through the seasons. The illustrations are beautiful, incorporating traditional artwork and peaceful colours. The interesting facts and vocabulary sprinkled throughout add dimension and interest to the book, as does the tracing of the seasons using traditional Gitxsan references to the phases of the moon. Of course I love that it is centered in our province and that my daughter and I were able to look at the map and talk about our local landscape and the many important natural features (rivers, the salmon, the forests). We also discussed some of the different First Nations in our province and talked about their languages and cultures (we live in the heart of syilx or Okanagan territory).
A must-have for elementary classrooms and libraries in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.
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