It’s an honor to celebrate my #kidlit friend Alexandra Alessandri’s INCREDIBLE debut middle grade fantasy/adventure on the blog today. Think: “Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore.”
I am telling you now, I see GREAT things happening with this book!
But don’t take my word for it…
Praise for The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía
“Alessandri expertly weaves an immersive tale bursting at the seams with folklore, enchantments, and spirit.”–Publishers Weekly.
“Beautiful prose combines with gripping adventure in this magical ode to Colombia and its legends. Fans of Roseanne Brown’s Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting (2022) and Zoraida Córdova’s Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter (2022) will adore this book, for both its mythic monsters and its plucky heroine.” – Aurora Dominguez, Booklist
“Modern kids meet traditional tales with thrilling results.” —KIRKUS
Let’s ask some questions!
Q 1. They say every book is a bit autobiographical in some way. Are you more like Valentina, her brother, Julián, or their father?
Alexandra Alessandri: I am definitely most like Valentina! Valentina is creative but also anxious, eager to please her parents but also wanting to carve a space that’s hers alone. She second-guesses herself and is sometimes indecisive, especially when the stakes are high because she doesn’t want to fail. All of these are traits that I share with her.
Also, in the opening of the story, Valentina wants nothing more than to get into a prestigious art program in Bogotá, mainly because she wants to get away from what she perceives as her mundane life on the farm. I remember feeling like that when I was Valentina’s age, dreaming of something more than where I was.
Q 2. Did you do much research about the fantastical Colombian myths and legends, or –like your protagonists– are these stories you grew up with?
Alexandra Alessandri: Several of the stories are those I grew up with, like that of the mano peluda, los duendes, and the patasola. My late uncle had this wonderful farm, Villapaz, which I visited several times, and he loved spinning these stories to his children and nieces and nephews. He claimed a kind brujita lived in the small cottage on the property, that duendes roamed in the copse of bamboo (so we better be careful they didn’t take our shoes!), and that a dragon resided in the depths of a small pond there, protecting the farm.
A.A. : Still, I had to do a lot of research into those and other legends, in part because memory is fickle, and in part because what I knew was at the surface level. I needed to dig deep into the legends and their histories to understand the role they would play in Valentina’s story.
Q 3. Which mythical creature were you most afraid of as a child?
Alexandra Alessandri: La mano peluda! It’s a hairy, disembodied hand that lurks beneath children’s beds—and it was my cousins’ favorite tale to spin as we tried falling asleep at the farm. I remember being so scared and refusing to leave my bed, for fear that the mano peluda would come get me.
Q 4. What do you hope readers will take away from The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía?
Alexandra Alessandri: I hope readers will take away a different image of Colombia than the one often shown by the news or media. For so long, Colombia has been synonymous with drug cartels and violence, and while that is certainly part of its history, it’s not all of it by far.
A.A. : I hope readers will discover the beauty and magic of Colombia, as well as that of their own backyards, and that they may feel compelled to care for the earth.
Finally, I hope readers will choose kindness and fight against stereotypes and assumptions.
You may remember meeting Alexandra previously on the blog, when we celebrated her bilingual picture book (also about kindness) : ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL.
Fun Fact: Both of the above picture books are part of Alexandra’s Story Storm Success Story!
To learn more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books,
check out her web site: alexandraalessandri.com and follow her on
We’ll be back next week with a Book Birthday celebration for #GreenPB23 author/illustrator
Marie Boyd‘s debut
JUST A WORM.