||June 10, 2008
Explores friendship and intuition or spiritual magic as a tool to dealing with self-esteem, identity, love, and death/beginnings.
Barnes & Noble.com
Jamie Martinez Wood
Marina Peralta and Fernanda Flores are looking forward to this summer. Marina hopes to throw a lot of pool parties at her new home in the O.C., while Fern, the budding environmentalist, wants to start up an eco campaign at the local wetlands. But their summer takes on an unexpected turn when they perform a magic spell out of a book and obtain special powers: Marina hears voices of dead people and Fern sees colorful auras around everyone she talks to.
The girls don't know what to do with their new psychic abilites, but when a wise old woman named Rogelia Garcia becames the maid at the Peralta home, she agrees to teach them the ways of the curandera (spiritual healer). Though Marina and Fern are thrilled, Rogelia's grand-daughter, Xochitl, who has her own powers, isn't happy about sharing such sacred lessons with strangers. Besides, magic has let Xochitl down before when it didn't save her sister from a recent fatal car accident. How can it help her now?
As Xochitl, Marina and Fern gradually grow closer, they discover that at Rogelia's House of Magic, anything is possible.
“Okay.” Xochitl relented, figuring Nana would say no anyhow. She got up, walked out of Marina’s room and across the hall to her nana’s room. She knocked once then entered. Nana was kneeling reverently and meditating at her altar. Xochitl didn’t want to disturb her, so she started to back up.
“What is it mi’ja?”
Xochitl was always impressed with Nana’s sharp hearing.
“Nana, Marina and Fern want to learn curandernismo. They want you to teach them. You don’t have to, though.” Xochitl chewed on her bottom lip. Looking around at the hanging herbs and crosses at the altar, Xochitl had a bad feeling she had made a mistake in asking Nana.
“Will you return to your lessons as well?” Nana kept her eyes closed and her head bowed.
Xochitl felt panic rise in her throat. This was not going well at all. To get herself out of this, she would have to make it seem like Marina and Fern were looking for something flashier than curandernismo, which they probably were. “I don’t think they are serious, Nana. I mean, they might think your magic is like Harry Potter or something,” Xochitl said.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Rogelia said opening her eyes and turning to face her granddaughter. “I insist that you work alongside them.”
“Why?” Xochitl whimpered. “What’s the point of learning magic if you can’t save the people you love from dying?”
“It’s not wise to try magic tricks to avoid life’s difficulties, Xochitl,” Nana replied calmly. “Death is part of life.”
“Well, what if they think we’re weird,” Xochitl sniffled a little. “First you wanted me to have friends and now you’re willing to scare them off.”
“We are weird,” Nana said matter of factly. “Who would want to be normal?”
Sometimes Xochitl thought her nana had forgotten what it was like to be a teenager.
“Come back with your friends in fifteen minutes,” Nana said.
Rogelia's House of Magic
Set in Southern California , this novel is about three teens who find a common bond and grow in their relationships as they learn the healing arts from a curandera (folk healer). Marina , from a newly wealthy Hispanic family, struggles with her mother’s insistence that she forget her Mexican heritage and barrio roots. Fern, whose Colombian family still lives in the old neighborhood, is a free spirit who has trouble trusting a potential boyfriend. When Rogelia Garcia, a wise curandera from Mexico , becomes the maid at Marina ’s house, the girls befriend her granddaughter, Xochitl, who grieves for the twin sister she recently lost in a tragic accident. Rogelia takes the girls on as apprentices and helps them to understand and control their innate magical powers ( Marina hears voices from the beyond, Fern sees auras, and Xochitl has the ability to disappear) while teaching them that by caring for and healing others, they can help and heal themselves. The narrative is well written and descriptive, incorporating Spanish phrases that are easy to understand in context and add flavor to the telling. The characters and their relationships with others are solidly developed. The novel will appeal to readers interested in magic and astrology, and several spells are appended (charging a crystal wand, a confidence incantation, etc.). School Library Review
Rogelia's House of Magic
I have to admit that I wasn’t sure about this book at first, after I read the author’s bio about other books she had written about Wiccans. But, what made me start and finish this book was that I really liked the fact that the three main characters in the book were of latin descent but were constructed in such a way that they were just three normal teen girls, each dealing with normal teen issues such as strained parental relationships (absentee parents, chilly mothers with busy schedules), the death of a sibling and the sometimes rough waters of teen crushes.
Throughout the course of the book, the three female teens bond over the spiritual teachings of a traditional Mexican healer who takes the form of a maid. While some of the text is trite and stereotypical (the issue of classism within a Mexican-American family is written in one dimension), the overall themes of teen girls bonding, working through their problems and uniting to save a friend are solid and meaningful.
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