Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Mañanaland. Fiction. Scholastic, 03/2020. 256pp. $18.99. 978-1-338-15786-4. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 3-7.
Living with his stonemason bridge-building Papá and Buelo, Latinx Maximiliano Córdoba’s only worries are whether he will be able to try out for the village fútbol team, if he can get some new Volantes shoes, and why his mother went away shortly after he was born and never returned. This all changes, however, when Max steps up to help young, “hidden one” Isabel—a refugee from a nearby country, Abismo—and acts as a “guardian” to ferry her part-way along a series of hidden stops to freedom, using the tales that Buelo has told him all his life to help lead the way. It is through helping Isadora that Max comes to understand his family’s connection to the “Guardians of the Hidden Ones,” and the difficult choices his mother had to make to keep him safe, while ultimately learning about what is truly important in this world: family, correcting injustices, and helping others in their time of need. Set “somewhere in the Américas” in a fictional country called Santa Maria, and featuring Spanish language peppered throughout, Ryan’s follow-up to Newbery Honor-winning Echo (2015) is a not-so-subtle allegory for our current refugee crisis, taking aim at those who would label someone who has to leave an oppressive situation and relocate to “their” country as a “criminal.” With language that unfolds in the style of a seasoned storyteller spinning a nuanced tale, this novel simultaneously feels like a fable and an all-too-familiar story rooted in real life. Review based on an ARC.
Eric Barbus, San Francisco Public Library