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Book Review

Jose B. Gonzalez



Tortilla Sun
by Jennifer Cervantes

Chronicle Books, 2009



hen I first glanced at the title of this children’s book by Jennifer Cervantes, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the word, “tortilla,” which like “mambo” and “salsa,” seems to be ubiquitous in Latino literature.  But after reading the book, I couldn’t resist the craving for a tortilla, and I couldn’t help but feel like the book whet my appetite for some of my grandmother’s cooking.


Tortilla Sun is about a twelve-year old girl named Izzy who is sent to her grandmother’s house in New Mexico, while her mother goes to Costa Rica to conduct research.  Izzy is an imperfect child.  She doesn’t quite have the appreciation for her family or for her family’s traditions and given the choice, she would rather not spend the time with her grandmother.  But she has reasons to be dubious.  After all, she has experienced the death of a father, whom she barely knew, and her mother has held back some information about her family and her past.

As the story develops, the reader is exposed to the subtleties of cultural traditions.  In other words, Cervantes does an excellent job of writing a novel that reflects the rich culture of Izzy’s family.  And as she does this, she incorporates such elements as Spanish words as a way to tell the full story of Izzy’s experiences in a world with which she is unfamiliar.  When some authors attempt to incorporate such elements, they often do so at the sacrifice of a good storyline.  Cervantes, on the other hand, weaves together a great story that flows naturally.

Even as she acts defensively against her relatives, Izzy is an appealing, likable character.  At times she appears a little closed-minded, like a youngster who has solved all the puzzles of the world.  But her curiosity and intelligence open up her mind, and she learns many life lessons during her stay.  She is an intriguing, strong-willed, sensitive, individual  who serves as an ideal little heroine. 

Although the storyline is wrapped up by the end of the book, I can’t help but feel l like I want to know more about Izzy, who steals the show.  I could see a series of books following her new adventures, and I have to say that if Chronicle Books, the publisher, decides to go ahead with continuing her story, I would be one of the first in line to purchase the next set.  Tortilla Sun is a winner, and so is the wonderful character of Izzy. 





Copyright 2006 design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie


Last Updated: October 18, 2010