Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Summer of the Mariposas

Lee and Low 25th anniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Summer of the Mariposas

Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Synopsis: Odilia and her four sisters rival the mythical Odysseus in cleverness and courage as they embark on their own hero’s journey. Fifteen-year-old Odilia and her younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, and must outwit monsters and witches to make it back home again. Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.

Awards and honors:

  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Outstanding Merit, Bank Street College of Education
  • Spirit of Texas Reading Program, High School List, Young Adult Round Table/Texas Library Association
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal
  • Best Books of the Year, School Library Journal
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List, Texas Library Association Young Adult Round Table
  • Westchester Young Adult Fiction Award, Westchester Fiction Award Committee
  • Amelia Bloomer Project, Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association
  • Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Finalist, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

The story behind the story (read the full interview here):

“For a very long time, years actually, I’d been toying with the idea of retelling The Odyssey with an all-female cast. The idea of flipping the ultimate male adventure and turning it into a feminine quest with all the strengths of womanhood fascinated me. But nothing had ever really materialized in my mind, until the day my eighth grade students had a long classroom debate over the gender issues in The Odyssey. As she left my class, one of the girls said, “But why do boys get to have all the adventures? It’s not fair. We need our own Odyssey.” That’s when it clicked for me. She was right. Girls her age need to see themselves depicted in that light. They need to have books where they are wise and clever and brave.

But why stop there? my brain asked. Why not really turn this thing on its ear and make it about Hispanic girls? Better yet, why not make it about our culture? We have myths and legends and monsters and heroes and ancient deities who are just as interesting as the ones in the original text. Suddenly it all came together for me, and I went home, took out the sticky notes, and outlined the entire adventure on my wall. It was like playing Loteria. Fun. Fun. Fun.”

Guadalupe Garcia McCall, author of Summer of the Mariposas

Resources for teaching with Summer of the Mariposas:

Additional collections including Summer of the Mariposas:

How have you used Summer of the Mariposas? Let us know!