Chavela is a little girl who loves chewing gum – all kinds of gum! “Pink bubble,gum, rainbow-colored gum, sugar-free peppermint gum . . . gum that came in rolls, shredded gum, and teeny tiny gumballs ... Chavela chomped her chicle every chance she got.” But one day she and her grandmother go into a tiny corner store, and there Chavela spots a kind of gum she has never seen before, labeled “Magic Chicle”, and claiming to come from a magical sapodilla tree. When Chavela buys this gum and chews it, it takes her on the adventure of a lifetime, as she floats through the sky and lands deep in the rainforest of Mexico, where she discovers the tree that produces the sapodilla, which is the secret ingredient of chewing gum,, and learns some of the history and traditions of the harvesting of the sap and the making of the gum.
This story allows children the opportunity to enjoy a magical moment while also learning a bit about Latin American culture. The artwork, by Magaly Morales, is spectacular, with paintings done in luscious candy-colors, and motifs echoing both candy shapes and traditional Latino patterns. The text swirls across the pages in waves, blending with the artwork in eye-catching and creative ways, and unusual words are both emphasized with unusual fonts and colors, and explained. The story introduces some Mexican-American traditions, and includes a traditional folk song. An afterword provides additional information on chewing gum, the rain forest, and the music from the book. All in all, this book is a treat for the eyes, as well as a great fantasy adventure. Highly recommended, with special notice for those wishing to add more good quality multicultural literature to their collection.
Recommended by Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director, Illinois