Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice

Levine Querido. Mar. 2024. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646143719.
Gr 5 Up–Uncovered family secrets and a growing feminist consciousness propel a seventh grader to cause good trouble and start a school-wide revolution. Twelve-year-old Manuela “Mani” Semilla, whose parents are Chinese-Filipino American and Guatemalan, feels stuck in the liminal space between childhood and adulthood. Mani is desperate to get her period and to get out from under her overprotective mother’s control. At school, quiet Mani and other girls are constantly harassed, assaulted, groped, bullied, recorded, abused, and humiliated. They’re also blamed by teachers and the administration for bringing it on themselves, being liars, and overreacting. The discovery of old letters reveals a family history of feminist activism by women fighting against femicide in Guatemala. Tired of being silent and sick of double standards, Mani and her best friends, Las Nerdas, take action and speak up, demanding the right to feel safe. While grappling with her feelings over an upcoming trip to Guatemala, friendship missteps, and a growing interest in menstruation injustices, Mani turns her silence into a roar and leads the way for changing the school’s culture of harassment to one of respect. With strong writing, frank conversations about periods, anatomy, and bodily autonomy, plus dynamic characters, this solidly upper middle grade/lower YA story will empower readers, affirm their own middle school experiences, and show that people should be held accountable for the many daily offenses girls and women are subjected to.
VERDICT A powerful look at collective action that shows when we raise our voices together, we don’t just make noise—we sing. Not to be missed.

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