Monday, March 30, 2020

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Eleven-year-old Maximiliano Cordoba loves playing fútbol, and hopes to someday play on the celebrated Santa Maria national team just like his Papá and his Abuelo did when they were young. And tryouts are only a few weeks away. But when Max is invited to join a fútbol clinic in another town, his father refuses to give him permission to go. Instead, Max is invited to help his father find needed stones for building a new bridge, and earning money to buy a new pair of coveted soccer shoes. Additionally, Papá and buelo offer to coach Max themselves so he can make the team,

But when Max learns that he will need a birth certificate to play on the Santa Maria team, he also learns that his Papá doesn't have a copy of it. Nor does Max know where his mother is, only that she left when he was a baby.

Max is also fascinated with the stories his buelo tells him about the Hidden Ones, people who are fleeing the neighboring country of Abismo and seeking sanctuary in a place called Mañanaland, and with the Guardians of the Hidden Ones, local people, including his father and grandfather, who secretly escort the runaways to the next safe checkpoint.

While his Papá goes to San Clemente to see if he can get a birth certificate for Max, Max's curiosity overcomes him and he looks through his father's private papers. Finding a rubbing with the word Mañanaland on it, he knows that it came from one of the stones in the run down abandoned tower, La Reina Gigante, overlooking Santa Maria. Forbidden to go to the tower alone, Max sneaks off anyway looking for more information about his mother, and finds a stone with her name scratched on it. He decides Mañanaland holds the key to finding his mother, but where is it and how do you get there?

When an opportunity to escort a very young runaway comes his way while home alone late one night, Max jumps at the chance to be her Guardian, hoping to find information about where his mother really is. The journey proves to be perilous, but Max discovers that the stories his buelo has always told him are in fact truer than he would have thought, and that perhaps Max was being groomed not just to be a great fútbol player, but also a next generation Guardian, and a pilgrim, true of heart.

What I think about Mañanaland:
I have to be honest and say this book begins slowly, almost too slowly. But I have enjoyed the author's other books, so I kept reading, and a some point, I realized that I was totally hooked into Max's story. Max is a sweet boy, maybe too sweet. Under the circumstances of not being allowed to do things without knowing why, I would have expected more reaction - especially when he isn't allowed to join his best friend at the fútbol clinic. So I was kind of glad when he began to seek some answers about his life on his own.

For the most part, Max's story seems to be divided into two unrelated threads - his desire to play fútbol and his desire to find out about his mother. But then Ryan begins to tie these two threads together in the most unexpected way and that when the book becomes unputdownable. And that's all I can say without adding a spoiler alert.

Although the story is fantasy and place, Santa Maria is located "somewhere in the Américas," the plight of the Hidden Ones mirrors much of what is really happening in the world today. Many in Santa Maria, especially in government positions consider the Hidden Ones to be criminals and thieves, mirroring the sentiment of our government today towards refugees from Central America trying to get to the United States in the hope of a better, safer life, making this a very timely novel. 

Mañanaland is an imaginative, lyrical, even magical novel, enveloping Max's coming of age quest for truth. But it is also a mystery that unfolds in some surprising ways, even as it challenges readers to think about what they would do if they were in Max's shoes. It is, simply, a book not to be missed.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from Scholastic Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Imagination Designs