Written in rhyming verse, a children’s chapter book continues Brisa’s exploits as she helps her friend Naj return to his distant home.
In Brisa’s Tales: Naj’s Tear (2012), the first book in this series, young Brisa meets Naj, imprisoned in an enchanted brook by a witch. Brisa retrieves a magic pearl from the witch’s house, making some friends along the way, and she releases Naj from his enchantment; the book ends before revealing his true form. In this second book, readers learn that Naj is a sky serpent, as in Mesoamerican mythology. When his wings are strong enough, Naj plans to fly home and see his mother again (his father, the Sky King, “flew off into the heavens” long ago). But when he and Brisa finally arrive there, they can’t find his mother. After searching in another city, Naj returns and discovers that his father can manifest at certain times; the Sky King explains that Naj’s mother died long ago but loved him and wanted him to be happy. Brisa, too, embarks on several escapades, including dodging a leopard and being captured by Wicked, an evil man trapped for centuries in the city’s temple. Meanwhile, Naj has one more transformation in store. As in the first book, Robbins writes an exciting adventure story with an appealing, resourceful heroine who proves her courage. Naj’s Tear effectively drew on traditional fairy-tale motifs, and here, Robbins makes intriguing use of elements from Mayan culture, such as the feathered serpent and twin brothers (monkeys, in this case). Although it has a light touch, the book handles Naj’s sorrow over his lost mother with sensitivity. A few lines don’t scan well, but Robbins is a skillful versifier, using tools like rhyme, repetition, and varying line lengths with evocative results, as when a stalking leopard notices that Brisa’s wand “wasn’t particularly long / nor was it particularly thick. / So he wasn’t particularly worried / at that particular time / because this particular leopard / had breakfast on his mind.”
A delightful follow-up to Naj’s Tear that delivers a sky serpent and a strong heroine.