River of Mariposas

Cameron. Aug. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419760617.
PreS-Gr 2–While gazing at the Papaloapan, a river in Mexico, a child dreams of what the world looked like long before she was born. She is inspired by the river’s name—which roughly translates from Nahuatl to “butterfly river”—to make her own “river of mariposas” at home. Buoyed by the smell of Mamá’s cooking and the melody of her favorite song, she handcrafts dozens of delicate paper butterflies to decorate her backyard, with hopes of hosting a party for her neighbors to admire her creation. Mexican cultural touchstones alongside the soft, colorful illustrations give readers a sense of a time and place steeped in history yet still accessible to them and reflective of who they are today. Pura Belpré honoree Ortega’s follow-up to her debut, Magic, with another semi-autobiographical snapshot of her native Veracruz, pulls from events post—Hurricane Franklin, where butterflies filled the skies because their usual migratory path had been disturbed. She uses the story’s climax to show her audience that there is hope and possibility, even after the most damaging storms.
VERDICT This is a heartfelt ode to Mexico and the power of children’s imaginations to impart beauty and wonder onto the world.

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