“As the monarchs descended, the flutter of thousands of wings pitter-pattered like gentle rain. They landed on branches, swarmed around the oyamel firs, or drifted to the creek to drink, the water trembling from the beating of wings.

She sat as still as she could. As one after another perched upon her, Solimar’s heart raced. She lifted a finger and several monarchs rested on it. This close, she could see the shimmering scales on their wings. “Buenas tardes. Welcome to San Gregorio. I want to reassure you that my family and I will do everything in our power to protect the forest, so you’ll always have a home. It’s a solemn promise.”

Solimar, pg. 5

I always forget how much I love Pam Muñoz Ryan’s writing.

During my time at the University of Arizona, studying to be a teacher, we were tasked with reading her masterpiece, “Esperanza Rising,” a book still taught in school’s across the country to inform others of the often overlooked plights of Mexican historical events. It’s beautiful, passionate, and written in a elegant way that doesn’t make the child (hopefully) reading it hate themselves.

Because, let me tell you, I’ve read my fair share over the last few years of authors trying to UP the language for kids books and fail spectacularly. I wouldn’t give their books to my students.

I would give my students this, no matter their reading level.

Solimar is about to turn 15, have her quinceañera, and become a Princess of the People. After a fateful encounter with the migrating monarch butterflies in the forests near her father’s castle, she becomes responsible with a gift that can change the entire fate of her kingdom. That is, if a vicious ruler doesn’t impose his will in a brutal takeover first. It’ll be up to Solimar and her friends to save the day.

Ryan has a way with words. Nothing is out of place. Reading it, for me, is a masterclass in word choice. Her selection is gorgeous, painting a vivid landscape with engaging characters in less then 20 pages whereas I’ve read kids book that 50 pages in have already lost me.

Let’s just say I had to take a break from trying to write the 1st draft of BIANCA to finish this because I couldn’t stop comparing myself to what she does.

It’s wonderfully short, gets to the point, and doesn’t skimp on the beauty of Mexico.

Thanks for reading,

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