MMGM and #IMWAYR: Mexikid!

Hey everybody! I'm back with a short book review of a graphic novel that I've been making my way through over the last few weeks! And then I've got some random thoughts for you, because we've always got room for random thoughts in our lives. These specific ones are about Taylor Swift's new album!

So let's do this!

Middle Grade:

Mexikid

A Graphic Memoir

Written and illustrated by Pedro Martín
Graphic memoir · 2023
Recommended by Lisa Maucione and Cheriee Weichel

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

NEWBERY HONOR AWARD WINNER • An unforgettable graphic memoir about a Mexican American boy’s family and their adventure-filled road trip to bring their abuelito back from Mexico

Pedro Martín has grown up hearing stories about his abuelito—his legendary crime-fighting, grandfather who was once a part of the Mexican Revolution! But that doesn't mean Pedro is excited at the news that Abuelito is coming to live with their family. After all, Pedro has 8 brothers and sisters and the house is crowded enough! Still, Pedro piles into the Winnebago with his family for a road trip to Mexico to bring Abuelito home, and what follows is the trip of a lifetime, one filled with laughs and heartache. Along the way, Pedro finally connects with his abuelito and learns what it means to grow up and find his grito.

· · · · · ·

This book is multi-award-winning, and wondrous fellow book blogger Cheriee Weichel just read and adored it, and other wondrous fellow book blogger Lisa Maucione was recommending it way back when it came out. I really don't have a good reason it took me so long to get to it, and I'm so glad I finally did!

There's a few things about this book that are fantastic, one being that it's hilarious. Pedro Martín has impeccable comedic timing, and he's found all the most entertaining or off-the-rails moments of this childhood trip, and chronicled them the same way our favorite friends who tell crazy stories do. The sense of humor wasn't always a perfect fit for me specifically, but I am certain that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with the skill in this story. I think the younger version of myself that read things with a lot of young-boy humor—what comes to mind for me is the Wiley and Grampa's Creature Features series—would have loved the humor in this book.

The coming-of-age aspect of this story is discreet but meaningful—I feel like Mexikid shows a realistic look at how unfamiliar situations, like those involving family and road trips, push us (even when we don't feel like we're ready) and shape us into the adults we grow up to become. And relatedly, I love seeing Pedro find his footing in an identity that is deeply rooted in America and Mexico alike, in different ways.

I also love that Pedro's family (real people like him, since this is a memoir!) shows up in the moments he needs them, and shows him the way forward. His sister Lila, his amá and apá, and his abuelito (the catalyst of the whole story) are all standouts in this way. I especially love one scene where Pedro's amá creates a beautiful metaphor for how his abuelito's legacy moves down through the family—young Pedro doesn't quite get the significance of it, but adult Pedro Martín clearly does, considering how thoughtfully he writes and illustrates the scene.

And in general, the specificity of the memories in this book is amazing. I feel like so many books just go through the motions of a story, kind of noncommittally, but because everything in this book actually happened, it is packed full to bursting with detail. As young Pedro narrates the story, he'll get distracted from one thing to share a sidenote about another, because he has so much to say. RVs, half-eaten bananas, Star Wars, action figures, sibling bickering, Pedro's observations of Mexican family traditions—there's so much vivid detail to absorb here, in a way that is truly rare in pretty much all books.

I think I was hoping for a little bit more emotional punch in this book than I got, but frankly, young readers won't be, and that's exactly why they'll love this. It's a Newbery Honor book, but not your usual tragic Newbery fare. If there was one place I think the emotional depth could have been expanded on, it would have been more exploration of who Pedro's abuelito was, and what kind of life he lived. Since this is a memoir, it's possible young Pedro may not have had tons of those conversations and learned all those details, but I really do wish we could have learned more about this clearly one-of-a-kind man.

That quibble aside, I fully expect this is going to be many kids' favorite book. It's the kind of book you can escape from reality into, and get lost in, with humor and specificity and a gentle touch of coming-of-age, all of which will resonate with young readers. I can definitely see why this has been such a popular and beloved read!

Random thoughts about Taylor Swift:

You know what is maybe not the best for my mental health? Listening to Taylor Swift's new album, The Tortured Poets Department. It's so sad, but there are a few songs I just love-love-love anyway. (There's lots of choices, because she surprise-dropped a second half to the album, so the whole thing is 31 songs long!) I think I'm actually just going to mini-review five songs for you, because why the heck not? We've got time.
  • I Can Do It With a Broken Heart: This seems fairly obviously about Taylor's experience going through a massive, painful breakup while simultaneously pulling off the biggest, most impressive concert tour...ever? And honestly, it's so relatable—I mean, who doesn't relate to running the Eras Tour, am I right? But seriously, it is relatable, because I know there have been times in my life where I've been struggling mentally, and still pulled off some major feats in school and extracurriculars and things like that. Also, this song is a bop, which is always good.
  • The Albatross: Taylor definitely has experience being labeled by the patriarchy of the world as improper or unladylike or whatever they want to call her, and she also has experience writing about it in her songs. But this song puts a new spin on it, because she's kind of saying that those men in the world who think they know everything, who deem some people wrong and some people right...well, they turn on everyone eventually. And it's those "wrong" outcasts who have learned to take care of people, and show the kindness those men don't show—and they're the ones who will take you in when the "wise men" she sings about finally burn you. I don't know, something about the narrative hits so hard for me.
  • So High School: I mean, if Taylor can't write an irresistibly romantic song, who can? And really, no one can but her—she's a master of the form. The sonics in this one really do prove Taylor is a poet—one part goes, "The blink of a crinkling eye / I'm sinking, our fingers entwined / Cheeks pink in the twinkling lights / Tell me 'bout the first time you saw me / I'll drink what you think and I'm high / From smoking your jokes all damn night / The brink of a wrinkle in time / Bittersweet sixteen, suddenly" and then she's in the romantic moment. And the whole "brink of a wrinkle in time" thing—like, she's on the brink of being transported back to her youth, and then she is, she's "bittersweet sixteen," and then the moment happens. AND the "I'll drink what you think and I'm high from smoking your jokes all damn night"—I have lived this feeling. And this is just like one tiny section of the song!!!
  • I Hate It Here: My friend loves this song and told me to try it, and now I love it too—her taste is impeccable as ever! I love that this song isn't about love, or breakups, or Kim Kardashian—it's about being fed up with the world (can relate), and escaping into your mind, where things are better. She sings, "I hate it here so I will go to / Lunar valleys in my mind / When they found a better planet / Only the gentle survived"—can you imagine a world with only gentle people? It would be amazing. She also sings, "I'll save all my romanticism for my inner life"—her words hit hard, y'all.
  • Peter: This is so sad, you can't listen to it, so I've of course listened to it many times. I won't give away the premise, but I will say the bridge and the chorus are both so perfect in their own ways—the chorus is just the same two lines, over and over, but the bridge goes in so many different directions and runs wild. It's a really raw, unpolished, vulnerable song, and so beautiful—and so sad.
Well, I wasn't planning to write a whole second review about one-sixth of The Tortured Poets Department, but honestly? I'm glad I did! That was fun. And now you have some songs to try if you get bored!

That's all for now—y'all have a wonderful, restful week filled with good books! ✨✨

Comments

  1. I agree that Mexikid was really funny - and all the more so because you know it's true!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  2. Mexikid sounds a very entertaining read! I love that it is a memoir written and illustrated by the author. I can see it being a popular choice for kids. Thanks for the in-depth review. I am not a fan of Taylor Swift's music, but maybe I should try her again! :) Thanks for the reviews and have a great week!

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  3. Yes, I loved Mexikid, too, Max, and I can see why you wrote about the need for more of the grandfather's story, but perhaps the truth of it didn't fit the age? I'm unsure. I haven't listened to the new album by TS, but glad to read what you thought about some of it. Happy reading this week!

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  4. I haven't read this one but it does look very interesting. I will have to check it out.

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  5. I've had this book on my future read list for much too long. Your critique will have me carrying it around this week. Thanks for the Taylor Swift update on her new album. I might even like a few of those songs. Happy MMGM!

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  6. My daughter and I got to see Taylor Swift about 11 years ago and it was an amazing concert. She is badass and the patriarchy should just get over themselves.

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  7. As I read your review of Mexikid, I wondered if you are the victim of expecting too much from a book. It happens to me all the time when I read a lot of reviews that rave about a book and then when I read it, I don't get all the feels. I've been thinking about what you said about the lack of depth in the grandfather. What I saw in the book was that to the children he was a mythical creature. My grandmother sure was to me growing up. After my grandfather died, her grandchildren took turns staying overnight with her. I might have stayed more than others because we lived so close. She also ended up living with my folks at the end of her life. Anyway, Gramma and I would watch TV together and she would tell me stories. I've never forgotten the night we watched a movie about Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill. When the movie was done, she told me about going to see them as a child and how Annie was her hero. I suddenly realized just how old she was. She was born in 1885. I think it takes a long time to see our parents as ordinary people. I'm still not sure I see my grandmother as one.

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  8. This sounds like a fun story. I've seen it around but never read a review of it. I'll see if my library has it. Thanks.

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  9. Thanks for the shoutout! After reading this I feel like I need to explore Taylor Swift's songs a bit more!

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  10. I do like funny books, so maybe I will give it a try. Thanks for the review.

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  11. I love the randomness of a partial album review. It's so great when we have a favorite artist whose music we can turn to when we feel the need.

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  12. My two work best friends and I have a very active group chat; one of them is 15 years younger than I am and the other is 15 years older and they are both huge Taylor Swift fans. I haven't listened to the new album (or actually any Taylor Swift beyond the ubiquitous "Shake it Off") but I feel like I KNOW this album because I've read so many texts about it over the past weeks lol. I really enjoyed reading your impromptu album review! I too have been slowly reading Mexikid. Usually I finish a graphic novel in a day or two, but this one is so detailed there I don't really read more than a chapter or two at a time. Since I grew up in the 70s too, the period details are especially delightful.

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  13. I cannot wait to read Mexikid! It is one of the last books on my Project Lit list before I finish up the list. Though it is weird, I have not been in the mood to read graphic novels or manga at all which is why they are primarily what I have left on the list.

    Also, thank you for your wonderful comments on UR. I always look forward to them!

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