The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía

The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejia cover
The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía by Alexandra Allesandri

By Alexandra Allesandri
Atheneum, 2023
224 pages

Ages 8-12

Vale’s dad is a folklorist and her mom a geoscientist. Although Vale, 12, enjoys Papi’s stories, trekking near their Colombian home with him and her younger brother, Julián, in search of a patasola, a one-legged woman who sucks her victims’ blood (“Kind of like a vampire, but cooler”) isn’t her idea of a good time even before an earthquake strikes and Papi is injured. Vale and Julián set off to get help and end up in Tierra de los Olvidados, Land of the Forgotten. They quickly learn that humans and the inhabitants there once moved freely back and forth between their mirrored worlds, but human greed and exploitation, culminating in the kidnapping of the ruler Madremonte’s young son, led to human banishment. It’s a mystery how Vale and Julián got past the border seals between worlds, but now they’re trapped and must journey to Madremonte’s castle and convince her to help them. They are met with helpfulness and suspicion in equal measure by various inhabitants of Tierra de los Olvidados, including a witch, a dragon, talking forest animals, and other beings. Vale and Julián repeatedly prove they’re worthy of trust, but their quest gets more treacherous the closer they get to their destination. Vale’s such an appealing protagonist—a kid who loves her family and wants to be an artist—thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Along with the vividly realized Colombian-inspired setting, swiftly paced storytelling, and satisfying plot resolution connecting present and past, it makes for a rewarding fantasy adventure. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center