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Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a Latinx middle grade novel that walks a fine line between realistic fiction and fantasy. Maximiliano Córdoba has grown up on his abuelo's stories (or Buelo) as he calls him. From those stories his learned important family and local history lessons, ones he will come to rely on when he's called to stand in for his father.
The set up of Max's world and story reminds me of the first episode of Las Leyendas (2017), except that Max remains grounded in his world and the stories he's grown up with don't manifest into an otherworldly adventure. Nor is Lola, his faithful Portuguese water dog, an alebrije.
Instead, the landscape of fictional Santa Maria and the land around it is built from places and snippets of history familiar to any San Diegan. The author resides in North County (the area outside of San Diego's city limit) and as an ex-San Diegan I could easily picture the key features of our shared landscape that informed and inspired that of Mañanaland's.
While Max is waiting for his family to find the paperwork to prove he's not too old to play on the village's fútbol team, he learns some of his personal history. He learns that his life is tied directly to the stories and songs Buelo has taught him. He also learns more about his missing mother and comes to believe he has the clue he needs to find her.
Max's chance to learn his personal story and possibly find his mother comes in the form of a young girl, Isadora. She is traveling to reunite with her sister. She and her sisters survived abuse at the hand of their caretaker. They are reuniting in a place known only as "Mañanaland," the same place Max believes his mother has gone to.
Taken realistically, Mañanaland is a euphemism for a refugee safe country. Where it is, is immaterial. Max's story is framed around those who stay behind to help those who can't.
Max's journey with Isadora is also constructed within the road narrative spectrum. Max as a child on his first escorting mission and Isadora as a refugee are both marginalized travelers (66). Their destination is by any other name, uhoria (CC). Mañanaland, a portmanteau of the Spanish word for tomorrow and the English word land, is a poetic way of saying somewhere else, reachable sometime in the future. Their route, while marked by roads and bridges, is actually off road (66). They are forced into the river. They go through tunnels. They cross a lake or some other body of water as Isadora is taken to the next stop towards her final destination. All together, then, Mañanaland is about marginalized travelers going to uhoria via an offroad route.
The Spanish edition of Mañanaland is scheduled for release in the fall. I am planning to re-read it in Spanish.
Comment #1: Thursday, April 02, 2020 at 09:14:12
Wonderful review. I shall add it to my wishlist.
Comment #2: Friday, May 15, 2020 at 18:23:00
I hope you enjoy it.