Tortilla Sun tells the story of twelve-year-old Isadora (Izzy) Roybal and what happens to her one summer. Izzy finds an old baseball belonging to her father with the words "because...magic". Izzy is on a mission to figure out the two missing words in the phrase. She never met her father, who died before she was born, and she hopes that filling in the phrase will help her to learn more about her father and to connect with him. Izzy's mother doesn't talk about her father, but when she sends Izzy to New Mexico to stay with her Nana, Izzy learns about her family, magic, friendship and how to make tortillas.
This is another one of those books where you need to eat while you read. Preferably, Mexican food. You should also eat tortillas when writing your review of Tortilla Sun. OK ok, I'll stop talking about food (now I'm hungry). Anyway, Tortilla Sun really is a cute, magically delicious read. Izzy is a kind main character and you will be anxious for her to discover the truth about her father, including how she died. While I read the book I grew frustrated at Izzy's mom for keeping secrets from Izzy and refusing to tell her how she died, however by the end of the book I understood why she kept it a secret. Besides being kind, Izzy is a good athlete and tough. She's got a good arm and she can run very fast. While she doesn't play on any teams she does play sports for fun and I enjoyed reading about a girl athlete in a middle grade book :) Mateo was sweet as well. My only complaint was that he wasn't really necessary. I liked him, but he could have easily been a girl friend of Izzy's, but then again, twelve is the age when you start to figure how "being in like" and having crushes. The cutest character though is Maggie and her cat, Frida. Maggie is six and an orphan, she loves with her grandmother and is utterly precocious. Her cat Frida is having an identity crisis and thinks she's a dog. Finally, Nana is the piece de resistance (I will continue to make food metaphors throughout this review because I can *evil cackle*). She's the typical Mexican grandmother; small, wise and loving. She also likes to tweak known sayings "But I am just pink and joy that you are here for the entire summer."
"You mean tickled pink?"[Izzy asks]
"No. [....] Those cliches are just for unoriginal people. I use words that feel right, not sound right." (pg. 43). The other characters are lovely as well, they add humor (especially Mateo and his mother, Mrs. Castillo), sadness, magic and even more heart to the story.
I admit, at first I wasn't so sure how I would like magic being inserted in Tortilla Sun. But it works. The magic has more to do with the works of curanderas and legends being passed down along with listening to ancestors. I grew to really enjoy the magic scenes, especially as the mystery of Socorro (a curandera with white streaks in her hair who can see a tortilla in the moon) unravels. I also really wanted to know the missing words and I began guessing along with Izzy and the clues are all there as to the missing words, but I somehow managed to overlook them. Izzy is also an aspiring writer and I think the advice she received on writing is quite useful, we both struggle with finishing a story and I just may take the advice Izzy receives about writing down an idea and powering through to the end.
Tortilla Sun is a savory story that brims with family, friends, fun, magic, tortillas and baseball, this combination makes for a very satisfying read. With a genuine group of characters, the beautiful setting of a New Mexican village and lots of food, this book left me eager to read more by Jennifer Cervantes. She is a very talented debut author who manages to cleverly weave together a few different storylines and the result is heartwarming.
Disclosure: Received from publisher. Thank you!