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Book Reviews by Kristie Groves

Earrings of Ixtumea
Kim Baccellia
Virtual Tales

Reviewed August 13, 2007
by Kristie Groves


Kim Baccellia, author of The Earrings of Ixtumea, has a degree in Elementary education and was a bilingual teacher the Los Angeles County for eight years. She realized through her teaching experience that our American literature did not offer Latinos positive role models, nor reveal their rich culture. She began writing this book in order fill this long-ignored niche.

Baccellia brings in figures from Mexican lore and gives them life. Characters such as Ixchel, the Spider goddess; Tezcatlipoca the Jaguar King; as well as the dichos, the wise sayings taught by the main character?s grandmother. They are fantastically woven together to bring us into the world of Ixtumea. Baccellia wonderfully illustrates just how rich the Latino culture is throughout the story.

Book trailer at YouTube
Lupe is a fourteen-year-old Latina who is caught between two worlds, ours - in which she lives in California and wishes she were blonde and popular, and the mystical land of Ixtumea, in the midst of an epic struggle between good and evil.

Her grandmother, Abuela, thrusts a pair of ruby earrings upon her, insisting that they carry magical properties and are tied with the tales she has told Lupe since she was a child. After eavesdropping on her grandmother talking with friends, and hearing the tales of an orucula who will save the land of Ixtumea, Lupe reluctantly accepts the earrings associated with the tales, just to keep the peace at home.

However, she denies the power of the earrings and their meaning until a warrior, Teancum, appears and whisks her away through a rip in the sky to that magical world.

Once in the village of Irreantum, Lupe is bombarded with a culture that is foreign to her, yet feels vaguely familiar. She has heard stories of this place since she was a child. She just had refused to believe in them for the tales always smacked of magical adventures, which she knew wasn?t possible. Or was it? She secretly wishes her heritage wasn?t so ingrained in these beliefs in the supernatural. She wants to push these beliefs away and just fit in with her classmates, leaving her culture behind.

The story itself is riveting, with talented use of imagery to reveal the sights and sounds of this fantasy realm. It was definitely a page-turner, and I found the world of Ixtumea to be wonderfully intoxicating and compelling, with heavy spiritual undertones. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of the goddess Ixchel, the Spider goddess, the grandmother Abuela, and their relationship to Lupe. The connection between the three is revealed slowly throughout the story, giving the work a steady heartbeat of fascinating character interaction.

The supporting characters are also remarkable and each has a distinct role in the story. The author develops each appropriately to fit the position for which they were written for and uses each relationship to further develop the main character of Lupe?s struggle against the forces of evil, her insecurities, fears and passive aggressive nature.

Through her trials, Lupe matures before our eyes, from the insecure teenager to the brink of womanhood. Lupe must deal with the knowledge of the mother who disappeared eight years before, her first sexual desires for her warrior protector, Teancum, as well as the seductive nature of the sadistic, handsome ruler, Malvado. Slowly, she embraces the position of responsibility that has been thrust upon her and faces her internal forces in order to fulfill her role in the prophecies of Ixtumea.

Baccellia's writing style is fluid and she speaks in a relaxed tone, peppering the work with Mexican Spanish throughout. When highlighted and right-clicked, the terms can be looked up using Babylon, but often the dictionary cannot produce a definition, probably due to the Mexican variations of the Spanish language. The dictionary also cannot interpret more than one term at a time, so when phrases are presented, it can be time consuming to look up each word individually. However, the author gives the reader an understanding of the terms through either direct translation or connotations within the story. Despite being a gringo, I found the work to be easily followed and understood, despite my rusty Spanish.

A minor detraction from the flow of the writing is the occasional typo, but none so horrible to confuse the reader as to the author?s original intention. Mostly, the errors are a simple missing letter, or the lack of a needed comma. The intense storyline covers these errors with its energetic pulse, and they are hardly noticed as one digests the visual descriptions and realistic dialogue.

SaveCancelCloseEdit This book, if rated as a movie, would be a PG-13 in my opinion. The story includes mild violence and sexual connotations, which are quite tame by today?s standards, only requiring the PG-13 rating for the one rape reference in the story. The tale is geared for the early teens and I feel that any child 12 or older would be undisturbed by the portrayals within. Although geared for a teen audience, an older audience can enjoy this story as well.

In short, I highly recommend this book for Latinos and gringos alike? it is an enjoyable read and would be a good addition to anyone?s library. It?s energy is similar to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. However, it is not a re-write of it by any means. It is a substantial work on its own. This book (also available as an e-book) is an excellent find and I for one would love to see a sequel from this promising author.

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