Sunday, September 17, 2023

Today's read... The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejia by Alexandra Alessandri

 by Alexandra Alessandri
Atheneum Books
Middle Grade Fantasy / Myth and Legend
224 pages
ages 8 to 12

Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore in this middle grade fantasy adventure. To save their father’s life, a brother and sister must journey across a land full of mythical creatures and find the most powerful and dangerous of them all: the madremonte.

Twelve-year-old Valentina wants to focus on drawing the real world around her and hopefully get into art school in Bogotá one day, but Papi has spent his life studying Colombia’s legendary creatures and searching for proof of their existence. So when Papi hears that a patasola—a vampire woman with one leg—has been sighted in the Andes, Valentina and her younger brother Julián get dragged along on another magical creature hunt.

While they’re in the Andes, a powerful earthquake hits. Valentina and Julián fall through the earth…and find an alternate Colombia where, to Valentina’s shock, all the legends are real.

To get home, Valentina and Julián must make a treacherous journey to reach this land’s ruler: the madremonte, mother and protector of the earth. She controls the only portal back to the human world—but she absolutely hates humans, and she’ll do anything to defend her land.

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Adventure mixes with rich legends to create an engaging read.

Valentina follows her brother and father on one of their family's crazy quests to discover legends, while their mother is away, continuing her studies of a volcano. When an earthquake catches them off guard, the family is separated and left in danger. With her brother at her side, Valentina struggles to rescue her father, but instead, runs into the creatures behind the legends her father has chased for years. These powerful beings are not pleased, but somehow Valentina is going to have to steer through them as she learns to deal with her own emerging abilities...or everyone is doomed.

From the very first page, this read grabs. Valentina's family comes across extremely realistic...maybe a bit quirky, at times, but that makes them that much more likable. The relationship between Valentina and her brother really shines and gives this entire read a nice family vibe. However, this read isn't as much about emotions as it is adventure, which is great because it makes the pages fly by as the reader gets lost in this world.

The messages hit a varied spectrum from battles with oneself to family to environmental issues and more. These weave into the plot well, allowing the tension to take over. The mythical creatures bring various legends to life and broaden readers' horizons. There's even a bit of Spanish mixed in. So, it's a rich read on several ends.

I do hope the author has more adventures for this family planned, since it was a fun read.

And here she is...

Alexandra Alessandri is the award-winning author of The Enchanted Life of Valentina MejíaGrow Up, Luchy Zapata;Isabel and Her Colores Go to School; and Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!. The daughter of Colombian immigrants, she is also a former associate professor of English, a writer for Curriculum Associates, and a poet. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son.

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