A 12-year-old Mexican-American girl moves in with her estranged grandfather, who tells her fantastic tales she thinks might be true.
The summer before seventh grade, Carolina (she now calls herself Carol) can't believe her bad luck. Instead of hanging with her friends in Albuquerque, Carol moves with her family to the New Mexico desert to help her paternal grandfather, Serge, whom she's never met. Serge suffers from dementia and thinks "Caro-leeen-a" needs to learn about her roots. He tells her the area's drought is because of the lack of bees, but Carol hears buzzing and spots bees. While her parents prepare to sell Serge's sheep ranch and her older sister, Alta, complains, Carol bonds with Serge over his fairy tales about Sergio and Rosa's centuries-old love story sustained by a magical life-giving tree. With shades of Tuck Everlasting flavored with Latin American magical realism, the atmospheric story within a story shines. But the debut author is less skilled with characterization. Supporting characters don't evolve, and several details don't add up, such as Carol’s calling Serge "Grandpa" instead of "Abuelo" or her mom’s secret mastery of Mexican cuisine despite her use of Hamburger Helper at home. Despite minor flaws, Serge and Carolina's story is a touching reminder to "squeeze the juice out of every day" and remember where (and who) you call home.
A poignant intergenerational story about finding and honoring your roots. (Fiction. 10-14)