Blancaflor, The Hero with Secret Powers: A Folktale from Latin America (9781943145553) / Blancaflor, La heroína con poderes secretos: Un cuento de Latinoamérica (9781943145577) by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by García Sánchez. Introduction by F. Isabel Campoy. Spanish translation by María E. Santana and José M. Méndez. Toon, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Folktale/graphic novel
What did you like about the book? Blancaflor, like many of us, has an ogre of a father, a more understanding witchy mother, and annoying siblings. And she’s bored with life. A handsome prince shows up after her father plans to entrap him in an unwinnable game, “The Ogre’s Three” / “Las tres del ogro.” Blancaflor enthusiastically, and secretly, helps him escape. The prince, who is hapless and completely ignorant of all the ways she helps him defeat the ogre’s traps, thinks it is he who manages the escape. Folktale fans will recognize Blancaflor’s tools – special powers, plus soap, a mirror and a comb. All along, the reader will feel the frustration that Blancaflor has suppressed, which is that all of her labor and forethought goes unrecognized by her beloved. Finally, when she has given up on the prince ever returning her love or seeing her for the amazing person that she is, she decides to do away with herself in a dramatic gesture of plunging a knife into her breast. It is then that the prince realizes her feats, and they are married.
The story hovers on the edge of just too much self-centered male junk, but astute readers will recognize a person in love who is willing to give their all, and is finally ‘seen’ by the end. I like the commentary which contextualizes the concept of women’s invisible labor, and gives background on the tale. The art is gorgeous! From the Aztec and Maya pictograms on the opening pages to the wonderful graphic art anchored in blue and brown, with Blancaflor in orange, this is a visually beautiful tale. The text and art work wonderfully together to tell an ancient tale with relatable sensibilities. And some of the spreads are full of such wonderful details.
The Spanish edition is a faithful and spirited version.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of folktales and fantasy graphic novels, ages 8-12. Perfect for fans of Barry Deutsch’s Hereville series.
Who should buy this book? A wonderful addition to folktale collections for Elementary school and public libraries and Spanish language collections.
Where would you shelve it ? Graphic novels/folktales, 398
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: October 25, 2021