Canales, V. (2005). The tequila worm. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.
The Tequila Worm is an example of Latino literature, which I knew right away based on the title. Tequila is part of the Spanish culture. This story appealed to me because of the title and the illustration on the title page. I wondered what this story would actually be about. The age level for this book would be 12-15 years of age. American students would benefit greatly from reading this book because they would learn so much about Mexican culture. I loved the use of all the Spanish words as well. That also helps the reader get a sense of understanding of the Spanish language. The book is filled with various traditions that the Spanish people participate in.
There are quite a few important characters in this story, with Sofia being the main one, the narrator. The story is written in first-person point of view. When reading, I assumed that Viola Canales, the author of the story, is Sofia. Aside from Sofia, some of the other crucial characters are her mother and father, Lucy, Berta, and Clara. Toward the end Brooke and Marcos are other significant characters. The setting of this story is in McAllen, Texas and St. Luke's, the college that Sofia attends. The setting is integral. If this story was set in another place where the culture was different, it wouldn't make sense, and the meaning of the story would be lost.
The story begins with the the ritual of Dona Clara visiting Sofia's family for storytelling. Clara was Sofia's grandmother and was a great example of a comadre. The first few chapters of the book are dedicated to informing the reader of many rituals and traditions that Sofia's family have. One of these traditions was the creation of the "Easter cascarones." In this chapter, you learn how the family celebrates Easter. Do they decorate eggs and hide them the way we do in our culture? Another tradition common among this family is the nacimiento. They have a traditional way of decorating and celebrating Christmas.
The story really begins when she encounters a problem in the cafeteria at school. One of her mean classmates calls her "Taco head." At the beginning of the story, Sofia learns from her grandmother that, "kicking like a mule" means to be proud of who you are and to work hard in all you do. In other words, to "kick with your head/brain." When Sofia is called "Taco head," she decides that she will show that girl by "kicking her," as mentioned above. An example of a simile is found on page 3 when Grandmother Clara tells the children, "Yes, kicking and biting like mules runs deep in our blood." Because Sofia begins to work so hard in school, she is eventually asked to attend a special school miles away from home. Sofia's family wants her to have a quinceanera, but Sofia has dreams much bigger than this. The rest of this story tells the journey and struggles that Sofia goes through before she decides to take the offer on the school or not. For example, Sofia must come up with four hundred dollars! How will she do this? She also must have dresses for dinners, and she only has one dress. Will Sofia be able to find the dresses she needs? Sofia encounters and experiences so many things that help her become the best compadres that she can be.
I feel that the climax of the story came when Sofia chose to venture out on her own to St. Luke's. At this point, Sofia's independence grew incredibly. Although she was scared, she had set high goals for herself, and she really felt the urge to pursue her dreams. With the dead of a close family member toward the end of the story, Sofia's focus changes. She still wants to pursue her education, but what becomes even more important to her after this death?
Symbolism is used on page 62 when Papa compares his beans to themselves as people. "how the beans were better than meat, how they were like themselves as people: mestizo- the page part Spanish and the brown spots pure Indian." One of Papa's favorite things to do was clean and cook the beans; therefore, this symbolism is so important here in showing the reader how proud Papa is of his people. The theme in this story is so powerful. At the end of the story, Sofia learns from her mother as well as others who influenced her, that part of being a comadre means being someone who makes people into family and to stay strong even in life's struggles. Sofia is told at the beginning of the story that she would learn how to "be a comadre" in time, and she definitely does as the book comes to an end.
BIG questions - Do you feel that you are a comadre or a compadre? How? What if you were offered a chance to go to a school like Sofia did? Would you accept and how would you feel?