Knopf Books for Young Readers | Penguin Random House
September 7, 2021
Illustrations by Dana Sanmar
An exploration of free will vs fate packaged as an enthralling magical realist adventure.
Amazon bestseller, Vermont Golden Dome Book Award Nominee, International Latino Book Award Honoree, a Banks Street Best Children’s Book, a 2022 Américas Award commended title, PEOPLE pick for best children’s book of 2022, one of the best books for kids by Entertainment Weekly, and more!
It is the hottest hour of the hottest day in Oaxaca City when Life and Death walk into town, ready to begin a new game of la Lotería. But first, they need a pawn, a child whose fate will be determined by the winner of the game: a long and prosperous life or an untimely death. Fate finds this child in a robin-egg blue house, tucked beneath a massive jacaranda tree. And so, the game begins.
Every card reveals a new twist in Clara’s fate: a tree, a scorpion, a fateful arrow, a mermaid, a deer, a treacherous rose. But Clara knows none of this. All she knows is that her cousin Esteban has vanished, and she’ll do whatever it takes to save him, traveling to the mythical Kingdom of Las Pozas in her search. And although it seems her fate was sealed as soon as the cards were dealt, Clara just might have what it takes to shatter the game and choose a new path.
“A magical, philosophical tale rooted in Mexican lore that will hold readers from beginning to end with its verdant language and setting.”
– School Library Journal
“From the first line of this philosophical debut, Arenas Valenti demonstrates a gift for interweaving immersive, sensory-rich storytelling with a thoughtful discussion of fate vs. determinism.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
“Clara’s unexpected decisions lead to the story’s heart: ‘Even when you have no choice about what has happened to you, you can still decide what you’re going to do about it.’ The tale is a scaffolding for this debate, and what a lush, verdant scaffolding it is. The story is filled with Mexican imagery, abundant with descriptions of food, flowers, vegetable gardens, forests, markets, and fetes, and especially of the jungle and ornate architecture, spiral stairs, curlicues, and darksome caves of Asrean. Clara’s valor and littleness stand out amidst this lavish context.”
– Horn Book
“In this marvelous blend of magic realism, suspense, and adventure, readers will be rooting for Clara to beat the odds and shape her own destiny. Valenti seamlessly infuses Mexican culture and myth into a spellbinding story that explores free will through a traditional Mexican game.”
“Life and Death’s annual game leaves a girl’s life in the balance as magical realism meets other-world fantasy in this novel set in Oaxaca…Exquisite illustrations greatly enhance the text.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“An enchanting story, rich with riddles, fantastic creatures, mythical lands, and guided by the magic of hope.”
– Aida Salazar, award-winning author of Land of Cranes
“Readers expecting our plucky heroine to enact a triumphant rescue… will be surprised at Clara’s choice when the game comes to an end and the players reveal themselves just as all hope seems lost. It’s sure to generate discussion about reader expectations… as well as spark interest in magical realism”
– The Bulletin
“I clung to every word of Lotería, never wanting this captivating novel to end. Brave Clara will live forever in my heart.”
– Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author
- DISCUSSION GUIDE – download discussion questions to help you explore and analyze the text more deeply. Help students meet several Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.
- LOTERIA GAME BOARD – download and print your own Lotería boards and instructions
- LOTERIA CARDS – download and print your own deck of Lotería cards.
- ACTIVITIES – download Juana’s Extra Special Chocolate Caliente recipe, a translation crossword, and some super fun trabalenguas (tongue twisters)!
- TIPS FOR YOUNG WRITERS – Two Ways to Hook Your Readers and Make Your Story Irresistible
- INSIDE PEEK INTO THE MAKING OF THE COVER (illustrated by Dana Sanmar)
- I offer interactive and informative 45-60 minute school visits.