Nacho and Lolita by Pam Munoz Ryan
Nacho and Lolita
by Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Topics: birds, migration, love, transformation
A mysterious pitacoche bird named Nacho lands in a mesquite tree in the arid San Juan Valley.
" Rare and majestic, he heralded the sunset with whistling songs and carried the colors of the world in his feathers."
Nacho surveys the land around the Mission San Juan Capistrano, where all seems drab and colorless "except for Nacho". Nacho draws crowds of people as he sings and spreads his beautiful colored wings, which pleases him , "But what good was it when he had no other bird with whom to share his joy?"
As Nacho watches the busy people prepare for the March feast of St. Joseph, he hears about the swallows who migrate to the Mission, arriving on the day of the feast. Nacho is intrigued and spends the morning watching the swallows arrive. He particularly notices a little bird name Lolita, who makes her nest in the chapel belfry. Nacho sings to the swallows, helps them build their nests, and feed and protect their young, "especially Lolita's". He even gives Lolita one of his feathers, which magically changes into a blue hibiscus. The two are always together until "a September gust brought a message with the wind", it's time for the swallows to migrate to South America for the winter. Lolita wants Nacho to go with them but he is too big to fly that far. Lolita must leave or die ,
"Go," he told Lolita. "We will meet in our dreams."
Nacho's heart aches. He must find a way to attract the swallows back to the Mission next summer. So he plucks his feathers and plants them all around the mission which swells with beautiful flowers, creeks, and orange trees. His plan succeeds and Lolita returns to him.
"I no longer have my beautiful colors," he said,
"To me, you will always be splendid," she said.
This magical book overflows with beautiful poetry and tender moments. Nacho is a wonderful protagonist; vain, but steely honest in his self-appraisal, his loneliness, his longing for family. Rueda's highly-textured pencil illustrations capture Nacho's "regal" stature, while his face shows his underlying loneliness, vulnerability, and desire to help others. The transformation of the Mission from barren to heavenly is beautifully done.
This folktale provides a unique and very memorable way to introduce the concept of bird migration! So much more than that, the story, characters, and art will make this heartfelt book a treasure you will want to return to again and again. Don't miss the author's note at the back that talks about the folktale and myths that formed the book and much more.
Pam Munoz Ryan lives forty minutes from Mission San Juan Capistrano and is an award-winning author of more than twenty-five children's books including Mice and Beans, When Marian Sang and Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride.
Claudia Rueda grew up in Columbia and now migrates between California and Columbia with her family. She has illustrated several children's books including I Know an Old Woman and The Eency Weency Spider