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Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan – Book Review

  • Title: Mañanaland
  • Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • Release Date: March 3, 2020

RATING: 4 STARS

Maximiliano Córdoba and his family live in the small village of Santa Maria somewhere in the Américas. Twelve-year-old Max loves stories and fútbol. He wants nothing more than to make the local team, except maybe to know more about his mother, who left when he was still a baby. When Max’s desire to learn about his mother intersects with and complicates his eligibility to make the team, he takes matters into his own hands. Max decides to seek out the truth on his own. As Max embarks on his journey, he realizes that the fantastical stories Buelo spins at night are not only true but also secretive and dangerous. Max’s decision to assume responsibility for his family’s work helping others ultimately has far-reaching consequences that will change him and the life of the one he helps.

Author Pam Muñoz Ryan is a masterful storyteller, and Mañanaland is yet another stellar example of her talent. Max’s story blends the fantastical with reality in a way that creates a timeless, intriguing story. His efforts to carry on the family’s legacy of helping refugees fleeing from all types of tyranny transcends time and space. It is a story of the past, the present, and – unfortunately – the future as well. The author’s storytelling ability also serves as the perfect vehicle to relate Max’s experience to larger, universal narratives. The writing is descriptive and layered, but it remains accessible for readers of all ages and abilities, which will allow them to parse out deeper meanings and complex themes. 

Packed with emotion, relatable characters, and life-altering choices, Mañanaland is an engaging read that will illicit thoughtful and challenging discussion in upper elementary and middle grades classrooms. While the novel can stand on its own as a unit, it is an excellent book to pair with another text that includes refugee or immigrant stories. Such a pairing would create a dynamic novel study that could bring to light both the diversity and universality of the refugee experience.

Classroom Applications

  • Cross-curricular Study – Teach the novel in conjunction with a nonfiction study of the refugee experience, specifically one focused on Central American and South America.
  • Book Pairing – Pair the book with another novel about the refugee/immigrant experience, such as Efrén Divided, to create a thought-provoking unit that “crosses the border.”

Nonfiction Connections: The list below outlines topics that will enrich your students’ understanding of the novel.

  • Refugee experience
  • Immigration history

Book Companions: The following are great books to pair with Mañanaland. In parenthesis are the specific aspects students could explore when synthesizing across the texts.

  • Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros (Character Connections, Themes)
  • Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen (Character Connections, Themes)
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz (Character Connections, Themes)
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Character Connections, Themes)

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