Review / Mananaland

mananalandBook: Mananaland (2020)
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 stars

Basic plot: Max’s dream is to play futbol like his Papa and his grandfather, Buelo. When he’s not allowed to join the other boys at the futbol clinic, he’s disappointed and starts to fear that he’s losing his best friend. But then he learns that Papa and Buelo have a secret. They’re Guardians, which mean they help on an underground railroad of sorts. And it turns out that this underground railroad might hold the key to the location of Max’s mother who disappeared when he was just a baby.


1) Max is a very sympathetic character. I felt for him when his father and grandfather seem to be overprotective. And when his friends seem to abandon him at the swimming hole? Ah, my heart went out to Max.

2) The mystery surrounding the mom was nicely set up. There were just enough hints and foreshadowing. And yes, the titleMananalandhas to do with the mom.

3) Buelo. Man, I love this guy! What a grandpa! (I love grandpas!) I loved his stories. And I loved how Max was so close to him.

4) I particularly loved how the book is divided into three sections: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. It was perfect for a book entitled Mananaland!

5) The most exciting part comes near the end with the underground railroad part… Basically, once Max meets Father Romero and Isadora. And, of course, Isadora’s not quite what Max expects. But I like the connection they eventually make with one another.


1) The only thing that confused me was whether or not this was a fantasy novel or realistic fiction. The soccer (futbol) and day-to-day events made it all seem like it takes place in our world. But at other moments, it’s clear that it’s some alternate universe. A slight thing, but one that did draw me out of the story at times…


My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this book! Don’t expect a super fast-paced story. That’s not the kind of book it is. The writing is beautiful. And I love how the title fits into the theme of hope that pervades the book.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday


14 thoughts on “Review / Mananaland

  1. I haven’t read this book, but it sounds great! I do sometimes enjoy books that are realistic, but with a touch of magic. I also loved another book by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Echo. Thanks for the great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been hearing really good things about this one! I wonder from your description if this is magical realism. That would fit well with the setting. I love Ryan’s work, especially Esperanza Rising and her book about Pablo Neruda.
    I’m sure I’d enjoy this one as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your post very much. I had the same question about the fantasy versus realism genre that you did. I love stories with strong protagonist/grandparent relationships, and this one sounds like a winner. Thank you for sharing this one with us for MMGM! :0}


  4. Pingback: My Top Reads… from 2020 | Of Maria Antonia

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