Under the Mesquite

By Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Lee & Low • 2011 • 224 pages
Hardcover ($17.95)
ISBN: 978-1600604294
Ages 12 and up

No matter how bad things get,
I can always be found here,
planted firmly in what’s left
of Mami’s rose garden
with a pen in my hand,
leaning against this same sturdy trunk
still writing poems
in the shade of the mesquite.

Death is a tough topic to write about, which makes this coming-of-age novel written in free verse, all the more extraordinary. Told from the point of view of Lupita, the oldest of six siblings, the narrative spans the years between the main character’s freshman and senior years in high school.  As tenacious as the rogue mesquite tree that grows in her Mami’s garden, Lupita struggles to find the strength to face the sudden changes and responsibilities that result from her mother’s illness. 

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Told in the context of a Mexican-American family’s traditions, with genuine details that authentically portray both the good fortune and challenges of growing up bicultural, this exquisite novel vividly describes the relationship between Lupita and her mother, and the girl’s struggles to overcome her grief, and persevere. While the topic is difficult, both the tone of the story and its ending are hopeful. A very accessible novel that nonetheless tells a compelling story with depth and well-developed characters. A glossary of Spanish terms is included in the back of the book.

Reviewed by Maria Mena, Library Science Professional 

Editor’s Note: Under the Mesquite was the winner of the 2012 Pura Belpré Author Medal.