In Marsden’s latest tale of cross-cultural friendship, a modern Mayan girl fights to protect her rural Mexican village from encroaching development.
Nine-year-old Rosalba Nicho lives a peaceful life with her parents and siblings in San Martín. Everything changes when she becomes friends with 8-year-old Alicia, a light-haired, green-eyed ladina from Mexico City. Camping nearby while her father works to preserve the local frog population, Alicia dominates most conversations and the friendship in general, establishing a problematic colonizer motif that runs throughout the novel. Soon, government workers inexplicability start bulldozing a road to San Martín, and more frogs begin to die. The author intersperses these third-person chapters with a mystical first-person narrative, following the life of a young male seer named Xunko in 600 C.E. The two narratives finally connect when Xunko begins visiting Rosalba’s dreams, showing her ways to save her village. Unfortunately, with the exception of Rosalba and Xunko, most of the Mayan characters appear petty, ignorant and/or violent. The importance of Mayan weaving and the use of the Popol Vuh add authenticity, yet the intended audience may be overwhelmed by the dual narratives, the environmental aspects, brief references to the Zapatistas and the (unfortunate) inclusion of the Mayan 2012 "apocalypse" prophecy.
While the concluding author’s note provides explication of some of these elements, some readers may not stick it out. (Spanish/Mayan glossary) (Fiction. 9-12)