When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling, illustrated by Aaron Asis (9780062972859)
A little girl’s grandmother, Lola, always comes to visit in the summer. The first thing she does when she arrives for the summer is to make mango jam. Summer smells like that jam and also the sampaguita soap that she uses. Lola’s suitcase carries other smells like dried squid and candy. Summer smells like cassava cake hot from the oven. It smells of chlorine from lessons at the pool and sunscreen on the beach. It smells of all sorts of food, even limes on the trees. Summer ends with the smell of sticky rain while saying goodbye to Lola at the airport. The house becomes grayer and quieter. The breezes are colder. Summer ends with return to school and the last bites of summer in mango jam.
Sterling creates a symphony of senses in this picture book that celebrates the food of the Philippines and shares a special connection made every summer between grandmother and granddaughter. Using food to add taste and smell to the summer setting works particularly well. The food bridges nicely into other summer scents of pools, lakes and beaches, creating an entire world of experience that is universal but also wonderfully specific.
Asis’ illustrations are done in gouache and digital art. With light brush strokes, he creates cabinets, tree branches, pool water and cooling cakes. This light touch adds to the summery feel of the book, inviting us all to feel a bit more sunshine and brightness.
Delicious and sensory, this book is a treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.
Voya’s time to get her Calling has finally arrived. While she isn’t excited about the trial that she must undergo, she is thrilled that she will get her witch’s power. Voya hopes that her power will set the course for the rest of her life, likely keeping her close at home with her multigenerational family who live in a house that was magically moved to Canada. When Voya’s hesitation causes her to have to ask her ancestor for another chance, she is given an impossible task: to destroy her first love. If Voya doesn’t succeed, every witch in her family will lose their magic. It also means that Voya’s young sister will die since magic keeps her alive. As Voya tries to get her cousin a great internship, she also meets a boy who is the perfect genetic match for her. The trouble is, they don’t like each other at all and he has no interest in even meeting her again. As Voya struggles to solve the mystery of her Calling, she learns more about her family’s pure magic, the cost of darker magical power, and what duty to her family means.
This book is full of Black magic that is at once both powerful but also marvelously mundane. Sambury brings us into a family of witches who are coming to the end of their power and tied to being pure, meaning that they won’t kill or torture other people to gain power. The family dynamics are beautifully drawn, from divorced parents who are forced to live together under the same roof to a grandmother who controls them all to a group of cousins who are very different from one another but also watch out and help one another constantly. The dialog is well written, full of small touches that bring each character to life.
Voya is an unusual protagonist. First, she has not only her parents but a huge extended family around her all the time. Second, she has trouble making choices that impact her life to the point of grinding to a halt regularly. When given tasks that force her to make decisions, she falters but doesn’t give up. She finds other ways, other paths and asks for help. This is the opposite of a solo protagonist, as she is surrounded by people who love her even if they don’t trust that she will succeed.
Magical, powerful and unique, this novel is fantastic. Appropriate for ages 13-17.