Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Celebrate with Confetti Girl
"It's exactly like Spanish class," I emailed my brother a little over a year ago from Oaxaca, Mexico, where I was spending Christmas. "I mean, people are literally running around hitting each other over the head with eggs full of confetti."
"REALLY?" he responded. We were surprised, and delighted.
Four of the six Burton siblings studied Spanish in high school. We succeeded in learning very little Spanish, but boy, did we learn a lot about La Llorona and pinatas and El Dia de los Muertos and... cascarones, the aforementioned eggs full of confetti, which feature prominently in the delightful Confetti Girl.
I enjoyed so many things about Confetti Girl that I've tried to write this review five times already today, because I couldn't figure out what to focus on. Like Kate Messner's The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, Confetti Girl stars a protagonist who is a smart-but-not-bookish girl. I don't think we could ever have enough of those in fiction aimed at middle school students.
In one of my favorite scenes, protagonist Lina and her friend Vanessa sell cascarones at the school fair, which results in--naturally--confetti everywhere. It's a scene that's joyous and authentic, and it didn't surprise me when I found out that author Diana Lopez teaches middle school. But for all its joie-de-vivre, Confetti Girl never descends to High School Musical-level hokiness.
Or to Lurlene McDaniel maudlinness. Because, you see, it could have--Lina's mother died unexpectedly not long ago, and Lina's father shows signs of clinical depression, and Lina is in charge of cooking dinner every night, and she has to get help with buying "girl stuff" from her best friend's mother--do you feel like you read this book in middle school twenty years ago? It isn't like that, I promise.
In another parallel with Gianna Z, there's a lot going on in this book. The loss of a parent, single parenthood, early romance, middle school friendships, environmental science, sports, poor grades; but it is all woven together beautifully by Lopez, and infused in every part with Latino culture in a way that is neither forced nor didactic. It will not feel confusing to girls of other cultures, nor, I think, tiresome to the most culturally aware Latina girls.
You have kids waiting for Confetti Girl in your homes and your schools. It'd be an excellent choice for these mother-daughter book clubs I keep hearing about. And from the depths of my inexperience, I'm going to guess that it'd be a successful hand-sell.
Oh, how I wish this book had gotten some Pura Belpre recognition. It is full of life and pure joy.