A celebration of grandparents’ wisdom, cross-cultural friendship, and the idea that nothing is impossible.
In present-day Oaxaca, young Mateo visits his Grandpa Teo in his ancestral Mixteco hometown, the Hill of Dust, for the summer. Grandpa Teo shows Mateo a shiny string of coins and begins a story “of marvels. Of impossible fortunes....Of a girl who gathered power from storms and sang back the dead.” The lyrical narrative then rewinds to the 1950s, when a young Teo—a grandson of the village’s healer—first meets “Gypsy” girl Esma, who arrives with her family’s caravan to sing, show movies, read fortunes, and change his life. Taken with her beautiful voice and "aliveness," Teo strikes up a friendship with “Queen of Lightning” Esma that her fortuneteller grandmother predicts will not only last a lifetime, but also extend to their own grandchildren. Each year, the Romany return, and Teo and Esma resume sharing secrets, rescuing wounded animals, and even saving each other's lives. Inspired by the author’s time living among the Mixteco, the heartfelt story shifts between timelines to reveal how Teo and Esma form a bond on the Hill of Dust that neither prejudice, time, nor distance can break. Backmatter includes a lengthy note that discusses the Mixteco and the Romany as well as glossaries and pronunciation guides for Mexican Spanish, Mixteco, and Romany words and phrases used in the text.
This vibrant, intergenerational tale is nothing short of magical. (Magical realism. 8-13)