Paola Santiago and the ­River of Tears

Listening ­Library. 2020. 1,014p. $63. ISBN 9780593207192.
Gr 3-7–Following the success of her lauded “We Set the Dark on Fire” duology, Mejia makes her middle grade debut, proving mothers are always right, ghosts exist, and La Llorona is legit. From 12 to eternal, desperate parent to dismissive cop, madwoman to murderer, narrator Frankie Corzo adapts effortlessly and distinctly to a growing cast of the living and dead. Tween trio Paola, Dante, and Emma plan to meet along the (forbidden) river to explore the stars, but Emma never shows. The worry is palpable: A kidnapper is on the loose, not to mention wailing La Llorona who’s been drowning children for centuries. When the police prove dismissive (racist), Paola and Dante realize they’re Emma’s only hope. Armed with Dante’s grandmother’s crocheted bag and well-worn chancla, the pair is sucked into the unknown to save their friend. Self-proclaimed scientist Paola has spent her young life eschewing her mother’s “fixation on all things supernatural,” but at least some warnings sunk in because those inexplicable nightmares are becoming terrifyingly real.
VERDICT With Corzo as her aural sidekick, Mejia’s spectral Latinx adventure gets just the right #OwnVoices partnership.

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