Friday, October 15, 2021

Review - Juanita: The Girl Who Counted the Stars

Juanita: The Girl Who Counted the Stars

by Lola Walder
illustrated by Martina Peluso
Date: 2021
Publisher: Cuento de Luz SL
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A magical story of a Guatemalan girl named Juanita, who loved cooking crunchy maize tortillas and counting stars every night.

Juanita lived in Santa Catarina PalopĆ³, a pretty little village next to a beautiful lake, surrounded by three huge volcanoes. She loved her pueblo and their people. Women there helped their families by weaving huipiles from silk, wool, and cotton thread while men worked the land. Juliana wanted to be of help, so she always cooked for her family her favorite meal, tortillas. At night, when the sun cleared the way for the moon to shine bright, Juliana would run onto the roof of the house for her nighttime routine: counting stars. The sky was so clear she could almost touch it.

But one day, Juanita's mom became very ill, and she couldn't work at her loom. Juanita wanted to help but didn't know how to. It appears the sky had been listening to her all the time and had a big surprised stored for her...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The colourful illustrations in Juanita have a certain charm, but they aren't enough to overcome the weak story.

Juanita lives in a small village in Guatemala. The people there live a traditional sort of lifestyle. Her father is a farmer and her mother weaves huipiles. One day, her mother gets sick and can't do her work. Juanita tries to help, but she's useless at sewing, so she goes up to the roof to cry. While there, an anthropomorphized star asks what her problem is, and gives her a magic needle, thereby saving the day.

I would've liked to see less fantasy and a more realistic solution to the problems (which were, in fact, compounded by the crops being ruined by rain, which was only mentioned when Juanita was telling her sob-story to the star).

Aside from that, the writing is uneven, with tense shifts where there probably shouldn't be any. The illustrations are nice, but they don't do much but illustrate a rather weak story. (Juanita was apparently inspired by a little girl that the author encountered on a trip to Guatemala. This makes the whole thing even worse for me, reducing potential problems like ailing parents and failing crops to something that can be solved with facile magic.)

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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