New book: Grandpa’s Magic Tortilla, by Demetria Martínez ’82 and Rosalee Montoya-Read, illustrations by Lisa May Casaus (University of New Mexico Press)
The author: A poet, author, journalist, and activist, Martínez wrote the 1996 novel Mother Tongue, based in part on her 1988 trial for conspiracy against the United States government in connection with smuggling Salvadoran refugees into the country; a collection of autobiographical essays, Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana, which won the 2006 International Latino Book Award in biography; and two books of poetry. Martínez blogs about human rights issues for the National Catholic Reporter. Grandpa’s Magic Tortilla is her first children’s book.
The book: Set in the New Mexico village of Chimayo, this bilingual tale celebrates imagination and family. When three children visit their grandparents, the grandfather leaves a tortilla on the griddle too long, burning it. Then the magic starts that only children can see: the burnt tortilla takes the shape of different animals – a dolphin, a bear, a coyote. Before long, the neighborhood kids are eager to get a look at the magic tortilla changing shape before their eyes.
Opening lines: “One summer morning, Grandpa Luis stood at the stove cooking tortillas on a hot griddle. He had made two dozen tortillas for his grandchildren. They were staying with him and Grandma Elvira for the weekend. He loved to have his grandchildren visit with them in his beloved village of Chimayo, New Mexico. As he turned the tortillas over on the sizzling flat metal plate, he sang a verse of his favorite song, Paloma Blanca. He loved to sing when he made tortillas.”
Review: Kirkus wrote, “Magical thinking runs throughout this lengthy, mostly dialogue-driven text; from speculation about the tortilla, it is transferred to creativity through the relation of dreams, reading, and painting — this last in the form of a wagon full of apology pictures after a hungry little neighbor boy eats the enchanted tortilla.”