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Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite
As a child, Xenia Navarro trained herself to stay away from trouble. Even the slightest conflict with the authorities might have grave consequences for her Mexican mother, Josephina, who had lingered on US soil after her fiancée visa expired. However, their sneaky neighbor seems intent on disclosing their secrets. When Josephina is detained in jail, facing imminent deportation to Mexico, Xenia and her brother, Lucas, are forced to live with their strict aunt and spoiled cousin. Can Xenia devise a way that would keep the authorities from sending her mother back? Can she keep her family together? How will the ants mysteriously appearing in their garden assist her? You have to read Xenia Navarro and the Magic Ants, by Lois Wickstrom and Milagros Darling, to find out.
The overall theme of the book is politically charged. Lois Wickstrom and Milagros Darling showcase issues such as emigration and deportation, albeit in an unbiased manner. I loved how they merely stated the facts without being judgmental, and readers could decide for themselves if the so-called ‘illegal’ actions were in fact illegal. The author duo introduces the concepts of scientific thinking and hypothesis building through Xenia’s science project. Similarly, the reference to the panspermic origin of life would generate intrigue in readers. With shape-changing aliens, secret underground groups, and conspiracy theories, Xenia Navarro and the Magic Ants is quite a thought-provoking read. Despite the central characters being tweens, I would recommend this book to teenagers, as some concepts might prove complicated to younger readers.