I turned around and stared down at the window, eyes half closed. I was about to fall asleep—then my eyes snapped open. An unhappy little girl was screaming in one of the houses next door, probably because she couldn’t have a toy she wanted. I groaned, trying to ignore the voice of a loud woman shouting through her screams. How could a girl so small scream so loudly? Do some children just scream for the sake of screaming?
The Lightning Queen, by Laura Resau, is a mesmerizing tale as shocking as lightning itself. Mateo leaves his house in Maryland to visit his grandparents in Mexico. When he arrives, his grandfather Teo whisks him away into the story of Mexico long, long ago—where Esma, a young girl crackling with life, changed his own life forever.
“Esma, Gypsy Queen of Lightning”: that’s how Esma introduces herself to Teo. When Teo notices her limp and curled-up fingers, she tells him she was struck by lightning—but the truth is much less glamorous and much more painful. The other Gypsies, or Romani, treat her like a worthless piece of junk—“squash head,” they call her. But to Esma nothing is impossible, and she becomes the Lightning Queen, with a beautiful, mesmerizing voice, hilarious “creative storytelling” powers, and an amazing gift for playing the violin. She is full of energy—and screams.
It is Esma who taught Teo to scream, to go to somewhere lonely and let out all the anger and pain until there is no more left. When Esma leaves, Teo goes up to the hills and screams with such emotion that tears dripped off my face like warm rain. I can’t remember the last time I really screamed. Shouted, yes; yelped, yes; squealed, yes; but screamed? I can’t remember. And now I sometimes feel the urge to scream for the sake of screaming, for that rush of adrenaline that courses through the screamer.
The Lightning Queen is an electrifying tale that sent shivers through me. I probably shouldn’t be so hard on that little girl who screams every summer night. Screaming is a wonderful thing—I just wish she would scream during the day.
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Middle-grade historical fiction, ages 10–12