La Mariachi

Sleeping Bear. Jul. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534111912.
Gr 1-4–A love letter to mariachi that calls out its gendered history. Tuchi falls in love with mariachi and how it moves people to sing and dance. However, she’s told “Mariachi is only for boys,” and is discouraged from playing. She wishes on Señora Luna to help her achieve her dream. Disappointed, the girl hides in a storage room where moonbeams helpfully shine on a guitarrón case holding a traditional bass guitar. It belonged to her nana, who was also discouraged decades ago from pursuing her own desire to play the instrument. Inspired by her grandmother, Tuchi learns to play and blows everyone away at a school tryout. The flap copy mentions that this story is set in the 1970s, but except for a few small details in the art, there’s no hint that this takes place during that time period. Sometimes the text is super flowery, and the multiple extended metaphors make this more appropriate for an older audience or as a read-aloud. The rich and colorful illustrations reflect the narrative’s effervescence. Spanish is sprinkled throughout, with the translation seamlessly following soon after. A glossary is included with more translations, and a visual glossary featuring photos of female mariachi musicians playing the traditional instruments is also presented in the back matter. Readers will cheer on Tuchi as she fights against outdated, sexist rules. She and her family have brown skin.
VERDICT A powerful debut picture book that will inspire all girls to push against the obstacles that keep them from pursuing their passions.

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