Goodreads: Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera
Publish date: 15 December 2019
Publisher: North Fourth Publishing
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Middle Grade
In the deep confines of the beautiful and majestic Rio Grande bosque, a fable is told of a simpler time concerning the rich tri-cultural communities of New Mexico. Join brothers Amadeo and Carlos Lucero in this enchanting story of magic and adventure. Discover how the power of love and family triumphs and turns an old witch back into a healer.
This was an absolutely delightful tale of family, friendship, grief and love that is richly infused with Mexican folklore and culture. I knew I would love this graphic novel the minute I started reading it! This was a very fast-paced read and I easily read it one sitting (mostly because I didn’t want to put it down). The personal touches in both the foreword and afterword made me enjoy this more, as reading the history of how this story came to be and the authors’ personal connections with their own curanderas showed how much the story meant to them.
I admit that the cover is what initially caught my eye. The story was so beautifully illustrated and it was done in a style that I like to read in comics. The colour palette was also perfect! The rich oranges, yellows and reds helped to bring the setting even more to life. I also liked how well the characters were illustrated–their individual traits and mannerisms were so well depicted, and I especially loved the facial expressions of certain characters that made their feelings of happiness, remorse and anger so clear!
I thought the plot was also well-written. I haven’t read many stories involving Mexican folklore but my interest has certainly been piqued after reading this! We follow the story of the Lucero siblings, starting with Carlos, the youngest Lucero boy and the little rascal whose actions get the whole family involved in this tale when he gets caught stealing from la curandera (a healer). There are many tales that have been spread through town about how la curandera is a witch because she’s so evil, but we find out that there’s a very sad backstory to why she ends up wanting to curse everyone (although that of course is no reason to go around cursing people just because you can lol).
At times I found the actions of la curandera extreme and unbelievably hysterical (especially the escalation of her actions), but the whole story is full of magic, a forest full of people turned into animals, the equivalent of the Mexican demon/boogeyman who eats naughty children that actually exists and lives in a cave near town, etc., so it wasn’t really ‘too much‘. It’s certainly a fantastical story set in the real world during a period when people still believed in the mystical and mythical, and in magic, and where ancestral culture was very much alive and a natural part of society. This story showed the power that all-consuming grief can have on a person, but also how kindness and understanding can bring a person back to who they were. It teaches about the importance of respecting others by not feeding gossip and also about the importance of family and friends in mending relationships.
If it isn’t clear by now, I really enjoyed all aspects of this graphic novel. The story, the characters and the illustrations came together brilliantly and made a fantastic read, and I would highly recommend it if you’re looking to read a culturally rich and vibrantly illustrated comic!
Thanks to NetGalley and North Fourth Publishing for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This graphic novel is out 15 December 2019!
Have you read Under the Cottonwood Tree or is it on your TBR?