Jade is starting eighth grade in a new city—Atlanta. She just wants to go back to Chicago, where her friends are. Where her Abuela lives.
But Jade does like walking to her new school on the trail that winds through the woods behind her house, where lush flowers bloom and soft leaves rustle beneath her feet. In the forest, Jade feels protected. Sometimes, it's as if it's listening to her.
There, Jade meets Itztli, an elderly storyteller who exists between dreams and reality. In the golden afternoons when Itztli appears, he steps out of the forest as a lithe, agile jaguar. But when he speaks to Jade, he is a wise old man who makes intricate works of art and tells her ancestral stories of Mexico. At first, Itztli's stories feel far removed from Jade's life. But as her Abuela suddenly falls ill, two towers come crashing down in New York City, and Jade becomes someone or something she doesn't yet understand, Itztli's stories take on new meaning. Jade must learn to have patience and strength to become who she was always meant to be, as the stirrings of an ancient power awaken within her.
What the Jaguar Told Her is a lyrical debut about growing up in the midst of change, and a magical cultural homecoming.
Alexandra V. Méndez is a writer, teacher, and scholar who grew up bilingual in Decatur, Georgia, with family roots in Mexico and Mississippi. She graduated from Harvard University in History and Literature and has a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University. What the Jaguar Told Her is her debut novel.
“The third-person narration flows naturally, sticking closely to the authentic point of view of a middle-school girl as she faces the challenges of growing up during a turbulent time. The novel is deepened through Méndez’s characterization of Jade’s family as rich in cultural traditions and strong relationships and by the presence of magical elements and stories of the Mexica and other Indigenous cultures.” — Horn Book
[STAR] “The novel explores themes of identity, friendship, crushes, loss, and looking for answers to life’s toughest questions in sumptuous detail. A coming-of-age story with parallels to Judy Blume’s classic Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., this work captures the complexities of being a tween girl seeking to find her place in the world and connections to ancestors through a Latine cultural lens. A thoughtful, richly woven tapestry illuminating the pains and joys of growing up.”
“This title is a reminder to hold the stories of family and culture near and dear to our hearts before they are lost to the world. The magic realism and tie-in to Latino folklore create a wonderful coming-of-age story about a girl who’s exploring who she is while discovering the power of stories through art.”—Booklist
“With lush language and and excellent structure, this novel captures the beauty of family, stories, changes—many magical—that come with growing up…This debut novel of magical realism presents an exquisite exploration of Mexican storytelling and a girl’s coming-of-age as she learns to trust herself and find her way through her family’s history.” —School Library Journal