Thursday, July 23, 2015


Wow.  Just…wow.

This book left me breathless.  If you know me at all, then you know that I'm a huge middle grade fan. I read a lot of it. And The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau is one of the best. Someone give this book a Newbery.

Seriously. The Lightning Queen is a heartfelt story that will stick with you long after you read the last page. And it will make you cry. It's that good.

The book alternates between the 1950s and present day as Teo tells his grandson, Mateo, the story of his friendship with Esma, the Gypsy Queen of Lightning. Thus, the vast majority of the book takes place in 1950s Oaxaca.

Resau does a phenomenal job of bringing rural Mexico to life. As I read, I felt as though I were standing on the Hill of Dust, the close-knit village in which Teo lives. I smelled the animals. I heard the river. I tasted the atole.

When a caravan of Gypsies spends a few days on the Hill of Dust, Teo meets Esma, a spirited young girl left crippled by polio. Her grandmother, the Mistress of Destiny, makes a prediction that Teo and Esma will be friends for life -- despite the fact that Mixtecos and Rom don't mix. Teo and Esma set out to make their fortune come true, and in doing so, they change the lives of everyone around them.

This book is a lot of fun -- how can you not love Teo's animal companions? -- but it deals with a lot of heavy themes. Prejudice, of course, is the obvious one, but then there's death and grief and depression, all of which Resau handles beautifully. Not everyone gets a happy ending. And it works.

So pick up this book. Read it. Love it.

Now onto the "pairing," if you will. After reading this book, I was craving Mexican food like crazy, so I went to a restaurant called Oaxaca Taqueria in the Upper West Side. It's a total dive, but it's delicious -- and pretty cheap. Their papas y rajas enchiladas are on point.

I'm still hunting for atole. Any suggestions?

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