- The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-545-80084-6 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-545-80086-0 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 4-7
When twelve-year-old Mateo visits his grandfather Teo on the Hill of Dust in rural Mexico, he soon finds himself drawn into stories of Teo’s childhood and his unlikely friendship with the remarkable Esma, self-proclaimed Gypsy Queen of Lightning. Eleven-year-old Teo is a lonely outsider still mourning the loss of his twin sister when Esma sweeps into his small Mixteco community as part of a traveling Romani caravan. The two quirky youngsters quickly see each other as kindred spirits, and a series of small adventures cements their connection, as they foster injured animals, face down a despotic teacher, and defeat the schemes of Teo’s uncle. As Mateo’s grandfather’s stories draw to a close, Mateo senses that the tale is not complete and sets out to find Esma. With this beautifully rendered novel, Resau delivers a simple yet profound story about the magic of friendship. The two main characters spring to life in equal but different ways: Teo with his quiet power and Esma with her fragile spark. The evocative prose perfectly captures both the setting and the personalities of the memorable cast, deftly connecting people and place. The narrative explores themes of acceptance that will resonate with contemporary readers while paying tribute to the folkloric roots of the communities that inspired the story. Readers looking for new, often marginalized groups to read about will appreciate the thoughtful portrayal of Mixteco and Romani cultures that celebrates diversity rather than exploiting it. Overall, this is a poignant, lovely work that weaves humor, heartbreak, and whimsy into a narrative spell that will surely capture readers’ hearts. End matter includes detailed notes about the Romani and Mixteco peoples and Mexican Spanish-English, Mixteco-English, and Romani-English glossaries.