Review of Mañanaland

by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    254 pp.    g
3/20    978-1-338-15786-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-15788-8    $11.99

Growing up in Santa Maria, a (fictional) country “somewhere in the Américas,” Maximiliano Córdoba is familiar with the legends of the Guardians and the Hidden Ones they led to safety — he’s heard them from his grandfather all his life. It’s his mother’s story that remains a mystery. When she disappeared, she took almost everything with her, including proof of Max’s birth. Now Max dreams of making the village fútbol team, but without a birth certificate, he won’t even be able to try out. As Papá sets out to get him one, Max discovers a secret about his family — the original Guardians — and the circumstances surrounding his mother’s disappearance. Legends and the realities of life come together (and the pace picks up) when Max must rely on his Buelo’s stories to help him escort a refugee child safely through Santa Maria, if not all the way to Mañanaland, a place whose true nature eludes him. Ryan skillfully balances Max’s day-to-day concerns (friendships, fútbol) with his longing for his mother and his growing awareness of a moral responsibility to help others, even in a world where compassion is criminalized. The novel is rich and relevant, hero Max “true of heart and proud of the legacy into which he’d been born,” and a good fútbol player, too.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Anamaría Anderson
Anamaría Anderson is a writer, translator, and museum educator at the National Gallery of Art.

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