LOTERÍA, by Karla Arenas Valenti and Dana SanMar, Knopf Books for Young Readers, Sept. 7, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A card game between Life and Death determines a girl’s future in Lotería, by Karla Arenas Valenti and Dana SanMar.
In the hottest hour of the hottest day of the year, a fateful wind blows into Oaxaca City. It whistles down cobbled streets and rustles the jacaranda trees before slipping into the window of an eleven-year-old girl named Clara. Unbeknownst to her, Clara has been marked for la Lotería.
Life and Death deal the Lotería cards but once a year, and the stakes could not be higher. Every card reveals a new twist in Clara’s fate — a scorpion, an arrow, a blood-red rose. If Life wins, Clara will live to a ripe old age. If Death prevails, she’ll flicker out like a candle.
But Clara knows none of this. All she knows is that her young cousin Esteban has vanished, and she’ll do whatever it takes to save him, traveling to the mythical Kingdom of Las Pozas, where every action has a price, and every choice has consequences. And though it seems her fate is sealed; Clara just might have what it takes to shatter the game and choose a new path. —Synopsis provided by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Have you ever mapped out your life? Really looked at how different decisions or events pointed you down the path you’re on? Lotería is like that, only Life and Death are behind everything. Of course, there’s more to the novel than that. But it’s that idea of interconnectedness that goes beyond the magic and mythology.
From the beginning, author Karla Arenas Valenti transports readers to a world rich with details. Sounds, colors, smells. All five senses are awakened. But it’s not just the imagery that draws you in. Her warm tone and sense of familiarity mixed with magical realism hit just the right notes. Add the gorgeous illustrations by Dana Sanmar, and you’ve got the whole package.
Lotería would not work without its main characters — Clara, Life and Death. Clara’s frustration of her lack of control over her own life will resonate with young readers. And Life and Death’s philosophical conversations are understandable and thought-provoking.
Lotería is a bit darker than I initially thought, and it’s not particularly fast moving, especially toward the beginning. For those reasons, I suggest tailoring it to your reader’s needs rather than the suggested age.
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