Fable of the Pack-Saddle Child, an illustrated book-length poem for adults, lays bare the world of Micaela, ten, who lives in an unnamed Spanish-speaking city by the sea. Seeking emotional refuge after a traumatic assault, Micaela withdraws from the world of adults. Almost losing her burgeoning sense of self, she instead becomes enchanted by language, beginning with the tilde that sits atop the Spanish letter Ñ. Her new love of the written word helps her find redemption in surprising places.
Meshing poetry and storytelling, Mia Leonin has created in Fable of the Pack-Saddle Child a luminous and mysterious tale about a young girl's search for the meaning of her life. Leonin weaves together the language of the body and the language of the soul in an unforgettable way. Her playfulness with the tilde in Spanish is simply exquisite. Together with stunning illustrations by artist Nereida García Ferraz, this beautiful book will haunt the reader with its evocation of a time and a place halfway between lost dreams and real life.
—Ruth Behar, Lucky Broken Girl
Mia Leonin’s Fable of the Pack-Saddle Child is brimming with the luminous strangeness of nearly pre-linguistic truth born of keen observation, deep feeling, and brilliant imagery. In this haunting, often terrifying hybrid of poetry, dream, fable and magic-spell, Leonin evokes a world that is both absolutely familiar and utterly transformed. Fable of the Pack-Saddle Child is a work of sly and surprising power, rich with the sensual fecundity of the real world seen through the eyes of a child’s inner life. Its spell will light and lighten our lives.
—Michael Hettich, The Frozen Harbor
This tapiz of tales unspools to reveal young Micaela growing up amid “the fables and fibs her mother tells.” Not knowing her father, “Micaela wonders what food her father is. Is he scrambled eggs or palomilla steak…?” For simmering below the surface is the story of a girl’s budding understanding of the power of language: “What you have, chiquilla, are words—many, many words.” So spoke the sage in the gypsy cave. And it’s true: all throughout young Micaela’s life, it’s her garden of palabras that anchors her: “She writes on a fallen palm leaf and the small square of wax paper...” And it’s village folk who, seemingly, raise her, including the teacher Señora López, who gifts the girl her first notebook. And slowly Fable of the Pack-Saddle Child sneaks up on you as Micaela’s unsettling origins are revealed. A category-defying book that movingly marries prose, verse, and image.
—Francisco Aragón, Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame
Excellent reading for those who value meditative, beautiful storytelling.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (starred review) ...
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