On My Bookshelf: Lobizona by Romina Garber

April 20, 2020

Lobizona by Romina Garber is a quick moving novel, in which the main character, Manuela, is in hiding because she is undocumented, but also because of her unusual eyes. When her surrogate grandmother is attacked and her mother is taken by ICE, Manuela finds her way to a magical school that is somehow connected to her mystery of a father, and it is there that she begins to find out who she truly is. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

Lobizona by Romina Garber is a quick moving novel, in which the main character, Manuela, is in hiding because she is undocumented, but also because of her unusual eyes. When her surrogate grandmother is attacked and her mother is taken by ICE, Manuela finds her way to a magical school that is somehow connected to her mystery of a father, and it is there that she begins to find out who she truly is. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: Lobizona is a quick moving novel, in which the main character, Manuela, is in hiding because she is undocumented, but also because of her unusual eyes. She does not attend school and is rarely allowed to leave her family's apartment, and never without sunglasses covering her eyes. When her surrogate grandmother is attacked and her mother is taken by ICE, Manuela finds her way to a magical school that is somehow connected to her mystery of a father, and it is there that she begins to find out who she truly is.

There were a lot of points of confusion at the start of the book, and I have to believe that it was intentional on the part of the author for the reader to be just as much in the dark as Manuela. However, I did wonder if I was supposed to figure out so quickly at the beginning that Manuela was a werewolf. I felt like knowing that early on took away from the shock the characters experienced with that realization later on.

All of the unknowns didn't stop me from wanting to keep reading and I loved the mash up of fantasy and real life in this novel. The novel begins in Miami, detours into the Everglades, and then ends in an entirely fantastical world. Between all of the description of werewolves, witches, and magical trees, the author also weaves in LGBTQ characters that challenge society's gender norms. I felt like there were a lot of plot developments (though definitely some unexpected ones!) crammed into the end of the book, but I'm interested in seeing what comes next in the series.

Classroom application:  I would recommend this one for upper middle school students and older. Your Harry Potter lovers will appreciate some of the plot/character similarities that manifest quite differently in Manuela's world (much different from a Harry Potter spin off like The Crowns of Croswald). If you are looking for other great fantasy titles to recommend to students, check out this list and this one.

An awesome writing exercise would be for students to choose a current real world issue (climate change, universal health care, gun violence, etc.) to be at the center of a story infused with fantasy elements. I'm envisioning an activity where students choose an issue from column A, a setting from column B, and a type of fantasy from column C to use as a starting point for their story.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Lobizona for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Lobizona by Romina Garber is a quick moving novel, in which the main character, Manuela, is in hiding because she is undocumented, but also because of her unusual eyes. When her surrogate grandmother is attacked and her mother is taken by ICE, Manuela finds her way to a magical school that is somehow connected to her mystery of a father, and it is there that she begins to find out who she truly is. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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