Module 3: The Tequila Worm

27 06 2010

Book Cover

Summary: Sophia is growing up in a Mexican American community in McAllen, Texas, and is learning all the traditions of her Mexican American heritage. However, there is a part of Sophia that wants to experience the other side–to go to college and to experience life outside her little community. The opportunity comes with a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school in Austin. After convincing her parents to let her go, she learns that she can accomplish her dreams while remaining true to herself and her heritage.

Citation: Canales, Viola. (2005) The Tequila Worm. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

My Impressions: To be honest I didn’t think I’d enjoy this book much. It’s different from the style of books I usually enjoy and I didn’t think there would be much I could relate to. However, the author does an excellent job of describing Mexican American cultural aspects that others would not already know making it easy for the reader to understand the culture Sophia comes from. Children of all cultures can relate to this book because it is a coming of age book in which the character learns not only about herself and her culture, but the importance of hanging on to family, friends and tradition no matter where you are. She has the bravery to step outside of the world she knows and in doing so comes to understand more about herself and where she comes from. This book was an easy read, and I easily felt Sophia’s emotions. I was happy when her parents agreed to let her go to boarding school, I was nervous as she went to school, and I even teared up when someone close to her dies. Although I didn’t originally think I’d enjoy this book, I was glad to be proven wrong.


Each chapter centers on the vivid particulars of Mexican American traditions–celebrating the Day of the Dead, preparing for a cousin’s quinceanera . The explanations of cultural traditions never feel too purposeful; they are always rooted in immediate, authentic family emotions, and in Canales’ exuberant storytelling, which, like a good anecdote shared between friends, finds both humor and absurdity in sharply observed, painful situations–from weathering slurs and other blatant harassment to learning what it means to leave her community for a privileged, predominately white school. Readers of all backgrounds will easily connect with Sofia as she grows up, becomes a comadre , and helps rebuild the powerful, affectionate community that raised her.” –Gillian Engberg, Booklist Online excerpt

“Canales, the author of the story collection Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (2001), is a graduate of Harvard Law School, suggesting that Sofia’s story at least closely parallels her own. She is an accomplished storyteller, though not yet, perhaps, a successful novelist. The episodic narrative has disconcerting leaps in time at the beginning, and a sense of completion, or a moral displayed, at several points throughout-all lacking the tension to carry the reader forward. This said, the characters and setting are so real to life that readers who connect with Sofia at the start will find many riches here, from a perspective that is still hard to find in youth literature.” —Kirkus Reviews excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to promote during Hispanic Heritage month or as students are studying Mexican culture. Another idea would be to read either the entire book or relevant chapters about the Day of the Dead to help students understand how other cultures view Halloween. Children could then create their own Day of the Dead items.