Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Published by Scholastic Press
Every night, Maximiliano’s Buelo weaves him stories of mystical bridges and a magical gatekeeper who aids travelers on their journey into tomorrow. During the day, Max’s head is full of his father’s rules, his bridge-building apprenticeship, and fútbol. Now that he is eleven, he is eligible to try out for Santa Maria’s village team. Maybe he can play professionally, just like his Papá and his Buelo. But when a new policy mandates a birth certificate for eligibility to join the team, Max’s hopes fade. His birth certificate vanished years ago, just like his mother. Max’s mother left the family when he was a baby. No one speaks of her; there are not even any photographs to remember her by. When Max’s Papá leaves to request a new birth certificate from a nearby city, Max sets out to find the truth about his mother. What he discovers is that the stories his Buelo told him are based in reality: Max’s comes from a line of guardians who help those fleeing the dictatorship of a neighboring country, Abismo. Those who fled the terror of their homeland are called the hidden ones. They sought refuge in La Reina Gigante, a tower set amidst the ruins near his home. What’s more Max’s mother was one of them. As Max seeks his mother, he joins his family in the guardian tradition when he is called on to ferry a girl only a few years younger than him to safety. Pam Muñoz Ryan immerses the reader into Santa Maria life: the village council, the local gossip, and the meddlesome families. Ryan blends typical middle grade woes such as jealousy over a best friend’s wandering attention or being too young to do anything fun with heightened stakes. The mystery of Mañanaland and where Max’s mother has vanished are the same, and their answer is inconclusive. Mañanaland is hope, a dream to keep the weary pressing onwards to tomorrow. Mañanaland’s exploration of morality, self-knowledge, and family make this a worthy addition to a children’s or middle grade collection.