Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti, illustrated by Dana SanMar

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Lotería: Valenti, Karla Arenas, SanMar, Dana: 9780593176962: Amazon.com:  Books

Summary:  When Life and Death decide to play a game of Lotería, they choose Clara as the human whose life will hang in the balance.  The two discuss fate versus free will as they deal cards with symbols that start to affect Clara’s life.  When a seemingly random series of events leads to tragedy for Clara’s younger cousin Esteban, she vows that she will take care of him no matter what.  This promise ends up leading them both into the mythical land of Asrean where the struggle for both of their lives and souls continues.  Although Lotería has an ultimate winner, Clara’s life takes a most unexpected turn that blurs the line between life and death.  Includes additional information about magic realism, the Aztec folklore in the story, and the game of Lotería.   320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  By now you may be onto the fact that I am trying to read as many award contenders as I can before the end of the year, and this one will undoubtedly be considered for both Newbery and Belpré.  The philosophical questions raised make it a great choice for a book discussion, and the folklore and Mexican culture are beautifully woven into the story.

Cons:  If you like an unambiguously happy ending, you may want to look elsewhere.

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