Thursday, March 3, 2016

LS 5603 20 Review: Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Under the Mesquite
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Garcia McCall, Guadalupe. Under the Mesquite. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2011. ISBN 9781600604294

Plot Summary: Under the Mesquite tells the story of Lupita, a young girl from a large Mexican-American family. Lupita must struggle with adjusting to her family moving from her birthplace of Mexico to the United States, while trying to understand who she is. To make matters worse, her mother (Mami) is diagnosed with cancer, and Lupita cannot imagine what her life would be like without her mother. In order to help her parents during treatment at an out-of-town hospital, Lupita helps take care of her seven younger siblings. As she struggles to deal with everything life has thrown at her, she escapes to write under a Mesquite tree, using this as her refuge. 

Critical Analysis: This book in verse was different than the other two that I read and reviewed for the module in that the rhythm and structure remained almost completely consistent throughout the entirety of the book. The poems all looked very similar, and while the number of lines may have changed, each was written in stanzas with all of the lines being very similar in length. This made for consistency throughout the book, but it is more exciting when there is more diversity to the poetry in this aspect.

When it comes to rhyme, there is not much of it that can be found within this novel, and the novel did not lose anything because of this. On the contrary, it seemed that the correct words were always used because there was no concern in what rhymed and had to be used for that reason alone. Instead, the word choice and lines were free and beautifully written, while certainly still eloquent. While there was not much rhyme, the poetry flowed in a way that made it incredibly easy to read, and the beat and meter was consistent throughout the pages.

The language in the novel was beautiful in a number of ways as well. McCall did a wonderful job of mixing the English and Spanish together harmoniously to represent both sides of Lupita's culture and identity. They all ran smoothly together without seeming at all forced. Along with the added Spanish and beautiful word choice, there were many instances of figurative language, specifically simile and personification, such as the following example:

"The chain-link fence on the bridge
was like a harp, and our fingers
would play a joyful tune upon
its rib cage as we traipsed along, 
looking down at the laughing 
waters of the Rio Grande
until we reached that other world, 
the one we missed so much."
Under the Mesquite, page 40

As with the other novels in verse read this module, there was no lack of emotion in this story. Lupita was going through a lot for someone her age, and it was easy to feel the struggle that she was going through as she dealt with her mother's illness, taking care of her siblings, and discovering what is important. It was easy to relate and step into her world as she turned to writing to cope, and she was an easy protagonist to root for as the feelings were so natural. 

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal: "Under the Mesquite is a window into a family dealing with cancer; but it is also more than that. It’s the look at an immigrant family, balancing traditions and cultures."


This novel would be a wonderful resource for my own classes specifically as I do have a lot of Hispanic students who have moved to the United States in recent years, so they would certainly be able to relate to Lupita.

Other novels in verse could be compared to this one to look at the craft and different techniques used, specifically another novel where the structure looks quite different from this one.

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