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Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera

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In the deep confines of the beautiful and majestic Rio Grande bosque, a fable is told of a simpler time concerning the rich tri-cultural communities of New Mexico. Join brothers Amadeo and Carlos Lucero in this enchanting story of magic and adventure. Discover how the power of love and family triumphs and turns an old witch back into a healer.

166 pages, Paperback

First published December 15, 2019

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Paul Meyer

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews
Profile Image for demi. ♡.
206 reviews275 followers
August 3, 2019
[ e-ARC received from NetGalley ]

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for granting my wish for ‘Under the Cottonwood Tree’. I have a good time reading this book. Though I don’t know much about Spanish words, it is still fun for me.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,027 reviews45 followers
August 1, 2020
   Amadeo often has to look after his troublemaker younger brother Carlos, but one day when they are in the woods with Amadeo’s friend Monree, Carlos taunts the local curandera too much – and finds himself turned into a calf! So begins their adventure to change Carlos back, but also to learn the importance of reaching out and caring for others and treating others kindly. Steeped in Hispanic/Mexican culture and the fused legends of the combined native and imported origin, the Meyers and Hardy offer a rich tapestry of superstition and magic, the importance of family and love and forgiveness in a beautifully illustrated and told story. Bonus, there’s even a dictionary at the back for the various Spanish/Spanglish terms sprinkled liberally throughout the book, enhancing the atmosphere of the family life of Carlos, Amadeo, and their family and friends. It is a solid story, easily accessible for middle grade readers and adults alike, and offers a nice glimpse into some of Hispanic culture and legends/superstitions with an adventurous story dosed quite nicely with magic.

Cindy, grab that kitchen knive. – spread 51/91 – “knive” should be “knife”
Amadeo, the curander is just bored and lonely. – spread 52/91 – I’m pretty sure “curander” should be “curandera”, though I could be wrong.
Profile Image for Chloë.
225 reviews90 followers
August 6, 2019
Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera is a wonderful story about family, magic and kindness, set in a simpler time.

In this new fable, the youngest brother gets turned into a calf because he teased the old curandera again, calling her an old bruja. The trouble expands to the whole family while they try to change him back into a boy. This is easier said than done and the family (and some family friends) have to deal with a whole bunch of magic and revisit old family connections.

The storyline isn't the most logical, but that's because it is based on a dream. That fact completely changed my perception of this graphic novel and made me respect it even more. There are weird details and strange elements but those make this so unique.

The illustrations were gorgeous and I especially liked the scenery. The drawing nicely fitted the atmosphere. This graphic novel also taught me more about the tri-cultural communities of New Mexico and expanded my Spanish vocabulary.

Overall, a nicely illustrated graphic novel with an unusual storyline and a wonderful message.

Thank you North Fourth Publishing for providing this copy via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Chrystopher’s Archive.
530 reviews36 followers
December 14, 2019
I really enjoyed this one.

The story is a tiny bit trite to grown up readers, but still good, with excellent messages about kindness, forgiveness, loss, and love. I also loved that it was centered around Latino and Native American kids and their culture.

Where the book really shined for though, was the art and colorwork. The top star and a half I added for that alone. It was amusing to see how all the characters who got turned into animals were still clearly recognizable as themselves, and not just because they kept their hair (which was amusing all on its own). The style was just phenomenal, especially the landscapes. I wanted to pour the colors directly into my eyes, and I actually sat staring at a couple of the full page illustrations for a couple minutes.

All in all, a really neat graphic novel, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Dini - dinipandareads.
881 reviews99 followers
December 11, 2019
This was an absolutely delightful tale of family, friendship, grief and love that is richly infused with Mexican folklore and culture. I knew I would love this graphic novel the minute I started reading it! This was a very fast-paced read and I easily read it one sitting (mostly because I didn't want to put it down). The personal touches in both the foreword and afterword made me enjoy this more, as reading the history of how this story came to be and the authors' personal connections with their own curanderas showed how much the story meant to them.

I admit that the cover is what initially caught my eye. The story was so beautifully illustrated and it was done in a style that I like to read in comics. The colour palette was also perfect! The rich oranges, yellows and reds helped to bring the setting even more to life. I also liked how well the characters were illustrated--their individual traits and mannerisms were so well depicted, and I especially loved the facial expressions of certain characters that made their feelings of happiness, remorse and anger so clear!

I thought the plot was also well-written. I haven't read many stories involving Mexican folklore but my interest has certainly been piqued after reading this! We follow the story of the Lucero siblings, starting with Carlos, the youngest Lucero boy and the little rascal whose actions get the whole family involved in this tale when he gets caught stealing from la curandera (a healer). There are many tales that have been spread through town about how la curandera is a witch because she's so evil, but we find out that there's a very sad backstory to why she ends up wanting to curse everyone (although that of course is no reason to go around cursing people just because you can lol).

At times I found the actions of la curandera unbelievably hysterical (especially the escalation of her actions), but the whole story is full of magic, a forest full of people turned into animals, the equivalent of the Mexican boogeyman who eats naughty children that exists and lives in a cave near town, etc., so it wasn't really 'too much'. It's certainly a fantastical story set in the real world during a period when people still believed in the mystical and mythical, and in magic, and where ancestral culture was very much alive and a natural part of society. This story showed the power that all-consuming grief can have on a person, but also how kindness and understanding can bring a person back to who they were. It teaches about the importance of respecting others by not feeding gossip and also about the importance of family and friends in mending relationships.

If it isn't clear by now, I really enjoyed all aspects of this graphic novel. The story, the characters and the illustrations came together brilliantly and made a fantastic read, and I would highly recommend it if you're looking to read a culturally rich and vibrantly illustrated comic! Thanks to NetGalley and North Fourth Publishing for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ruth Ann Lingwall.
Author 1 book21 followers
September 30, 2020
My concern with this book is that kids will get connected to the adult comic books by the same author which look raunchy! Honestly, I would love to see interesting books that celebrate family and hispanic or other cultures but don’t lead into worse content that is not even fit for adults to read! I had hoped this would be a good series for my family to enjoy.
Profile Image for Madeline .
1,676 reviews126 followers
November 12, 2021
Excellent! The graphics. The story. Just perfect.


2019 International Latino Book Awards
2019 Moonbeam Children’s book Awards
2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards
Profile Image for OjoAusana.
2,218 reviews
December 11, 2019
*received for free from netgalley for honest review" This is certinaly original lol its not what I thought but I really liked it and thought It was cute, would reread.
Profile Image for Steff Fox.
1,193 reviews155 followers
June 2, 2020
| Reader Fox Blog |

Under the Cottonwood Tree or El Susto de la Curandera by Paul Meyer and Carlos Meyer, illustrated by Margaret Hardy was a fascinating and beautiful tale about a family and how the love they share can overcome any amount of hurt, anger, and hate. Coupled with stunning and exquisitely colored artwork, this is definitely a book worth having on your shelf. I had a lot of fun reading this graphic novel, particularly adoring the strange and exciting, if not somewhat scary, adventure that the children in this family find themselves on.

The story begins with two brothers and a curandera, a word which means healer. When the youngest and most reckless of the two refers to the old woman as a bruja, or a witch, and steals from her. The magical food that he snatched quickly turns him into a young calf and thus the young children of this story find themselves in the troublesome circumstance of trying to figure out how to return the young boy to his natural state.

This story was a lot darker than I really expected it to be, but enjoyable all the same. There's truly a great message behind it and the characters really capture your attention right from the start. The tale, itself, is fantastic as well. As a reader, you definitely find yourself growing more and more invested in the plights of all involved the further you get into the story.

I was especially enamored by the excellent and gorgeous illustrations that filled this graphic novel. I'll be honest, they did a supreme job at selling the book for me. I couldn't turn a single page without admiring every aspect of the wonderful artwork. Not only does it perfectly portray the personalities of each of the characters, it does so often with them turned into animals.

All in all, this is a fantastic graphic novel that everyone should be eager to add to their shelves.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Vivienne.
Author 2 books101 followers
December 14, 2019
My thanks to North Fourth Publishing for a temporary digital edition via NetGalley of ‘Under the Cottonwood Tree: el susto de la curandera’ written by Paul Meyer and Carlos Meyer with artwork by Margaret Hardy and Jasey Crowl in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel is intended for children though I feel that its message is suitable for readers of all ages.

Under the spreading branches of a cottonwood tree an old woman reads to a group of children a fable about a simpler time. In 1949 New Mexico Amadeo and Carlos Lucero with their friend Monree get into trouble when they go deep into the bosque (forest) and taunt an old woman living there calling her a bruja (witch). They run away from her and seem to have escaped but suddenly Carlos transforms into a black & white calf! In order to restore Carlos to human form they embark upon a magical adventure.

“From a dream to the page” - in the introduction the authors tell of how in 1980 Paul Meyer had an unforgettable dream about a talking calf. His brother Carlos was inspired by the dream and wrote a short story titled: ‘The Calf, the Caterpillar, and the Curandera’. This story has now been adapted as this graphic novel.

The story is enchanting with truly stunning artwork that utilises the rich colour palette of the New Mexican landscape. It is exciting, funny, and heartwarming with an important message about kindness and tolerance.

A number of words and regional phrases from ‘New Mexican Spanish’ occur in the text and a useful glossary is provided after the story.

I loved it and would highly recommend to parents, teachers, and those interested in the culture and folklore of the Southwestern region.
Profile Image for Eule Luftschloss.
1,729 reviews54 followers
August 20, 2019
Three boys run through the forest, away from the witch one of them annoyed and stole from. Thinking nothing of it, he eats what he grabbed - and transforms into a calf.

Don't steal from a witch, no matter if she is into healing or into cursing. Period.
This tale is based on a dream, as they say in the foreword, and after the story we find a translation of the Spanglish used. Mostly, the dialogue is in English, but Spanish nameforms and terms are used throghout the book - which I woulnd't even remark upon because after all these years reading manga, that's what I've come to expect from a comic set in a different culture, but I've seen some reviewers less than happy with that.

What I liked most about this are the beautiful autumnal colours used, just look at this gorgeous cover. So I had a few problems when suddenly, at the finale, the art style was abandones to make pictures out of dots, which is an interesting concept but threw me out of the reading flow and I have to admit that I abandoned looking at the pictures because it was hard puzzling out what's happening. It didn't help that my PDF reading programm was constantly crashing, and first I thought it would be another symptom of that, but re-starting didn't help.

Apart from that, the story, the characters, the drawings are solid. This graphic novel just didn't click for me. If you like mexikan folklore, or just want to try something new, give it a shot!

I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mystical.
Author 34 books20 followers
October 6, 2019
Under the Cottonwood Tree is a heartwarming and sorrowful story set in New Mexico. Brothers Amadeo and Carlos with their friend end up picking on an old curandera, a healer woman almost like a witch. She turns Carlos into a calf and most of the other siblings too for the reason that she herself lost her family and sorrow established a house into her heart. The siblings try to undo this, but finding the good in the witch's heart, and all this leads to an adventure that is culturally rich and bilingual. The comic is mostly in English, but has New Mexican Spanish in it too as an extra spice. I love stories like this that use old legends and stories as a base. They enrich storytelling and makes these old legends known for people that aren't of the said culture. The story is interesting and understandable, with lots of feeling in it.

The art looks beautiful and rich in color. The panels flow nicely as does the plot, which makes the comic quite smooth. Perhaps everything happening in a day and how fast the curandera came around was too easy, but otherwise everything works well. The glossary at the back is great, since it makes it easier to understand words you're unfamiliar with. With this comic you get to learn, not only language, but also about culture and the way of life and that's the beauty of it!
Profile Image for Anna.
89 reviews
January 14, 2020
Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book
“Love can take you to dark places, but you can’t stay there forever”
Amadeo constantly saves his little brother, Carlos, from mischief. When Carlos trespasses inside the local witch's house, Amadeo finds his little brother has turned into a calf! Unsure of what to do, Amadeo turns to his best friend Monree and his family, to help find a cure for Carlos. Soon, they all find themselves in trouble, and Amadeo is the only one that can save his family and friends from certain doom. Written in Spanglish and lavishly illustrated, Under The Cottonwood Tree is a beautiful, heartwarming story about family, friendships, and love.

I would recommend this book for anyone to read. Aside from the gorgeous illustrations, the story was a beautiful representation of Mexian culture. While I don’t know much about Spanish, I knew enough to understand the words used, and appreciated that any new words I came across could be found in the glossary in the back. Every character, even the curandera, was relatable in some way. The author transports the reader into their world, and I found myself on the edge of my seat, anxiously reading what would happen next!
Profile Image for Vanessa.
242 reviews17 followers
November 11, 2019
The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous! It's so lovely and vibrant.

As for the story, it's definitely rated for middle-grade or possibly teen because there are simple themes and the plot line is a bit convoluted what with dragging the whole family into the fiasco. I did like the complexity towards the end as it didn't go as I expected it to and the villain was not just evil to be evil-there was a history. I think this was a fun adventure story that could be read over again.

I've seen other reviews that are not too happy with Spanglish in the book but, from an outside perspective, it seems like that would be normal in this situation? There's a glossary in the back and you may learn some new things so it didn't bother me at all. I loved learning about the Spanish folklore and culture throughout the book.
Profile Image for Jill.
904 reviews24 followers
October 28, 2019
Thank you to NetGalley for a free review copy of this book!

This graphic novel is gorgeous. The illustrations are amazing and lend themselves to the story very well. The autumnal colors were very nice and fit the story. I also learned a lot about Spanish culture and a bunch of new Spanish words as well while I read this book. I loved that there is a glossary of all the Spanish words used in the book at the very end so if you are unsure you can look it up! That was really cool and a great tool to sneakily learn for new words while you're reading. Overall, this book had a strong story all about family and forgiveness. I really enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
19 reviews
September 21, 2022
I love the potential story in this book and it kills me to not rate it higher, considering the polished art and cool concepts it contains. I'm ranking this one 3/5 with the note that I still think readers ought to give this a chance, check it out from their library and buy personal copies. This is especially in light of indie publishing and all the hurdles this must have gone through to be produced. Please read my whole review before deciding whether to check this out.

The pacing is very odd! I think what happened with the writing was that a lot of very visually-interesting, emotionally-compelling parts of the story get relegated to dialogue in speech balloons. For instance, we don't see a character steal a bizcochito from a witch...He just...has the bizcochito and happens to tell the other characters about stealing from a witch? Same with the kiln demon's backstory, and the medicine boy's aspirations. The curse is also explained via dialogue rather than showing it hurting the characters or changing their situation with their family and the village. So, missed opportunities to let a visual medium shine, but nothing deal-breaking.

There's also a lot of POV-hopping so it's difficult to get attached to any of the characters, or understand their motivations and character arcs. There are MANY characters and the roster could have either done with some squishing of characters together to make their motivations more layered and interesting, or some trimming of the ones who don't appear to have arcs at all. I really wanted to get to know these characters because a lot of their designs are very interesting aesthetically. I couldn't do that because the POV would hop away before I could really get into their heads.

The art is, for the most part, polished. Good coloring, readable layouts. There are some issues with the anatomy construction on the faces. Chins don't stick out enough. Some of the characters look too similar to each other (some of the boys in the village, and the two inexplicably giant, separate rats that happen in the story...Look, you'll need to read it yourself for the gist of that lol). While I would never get lost in the layouts, they sometimes look like they're only there to fill up the page and are, at points, so crammed full of text that I paused reading for a bit. The lettering never goes far beyond simple blocs of text inside of balloons. It would have been nice to see more sound effects and exaggerated exclamations, weirder balloons and crossbar I's.

I also think these are common problems with indie comics -- stuff that a big publishing staff would have caught, but good luck budgeting for that with small press (and sometimes at certain publishers!). These are par for the course when it comes to trying out a small press book. Shouldn't put off small press enthusiasts at all, honestly! I'm looking forward to the books that come after this one in hopes that the storytelling gets tighter. I would also hold out for an eventual Director's Cut version of Under the Cottonwood Tree with more pages to really expand those awesome parts of the story that got relegated to dialogue instead.

Please do give this a read in spite of my rating! I think it's a good story for its target audience.
March 13, 2020
I was thoroughly enchanted by this beautiful read, set in the Land of Enchantment. This story is so funny, heartwarming, and accessible (and necessary!) to people of all ages and backgrounds. The breathtaking art, whimsical and bright, transported me right alongside the Lucero family. As a native New Mexican it was incredible to see the characters use the Spanglish I always grew up using. In turn, I was able to see myself and my family in these characters. The authors so seamlessly incorporated the rich, unique, and diverse culture of New Mexico. I loved every moment!

Though this is a special gem for New Mexicans, I truly believe everyone will find joy in this wonderful story. I am extra excited to pass this on to my young nieces and nephews, in the hope that through this much needed representation, they will find a sense of pride in this wonderful place we call home.

Bueno, bye!!
Profile Image for Sundee Perkins.
261 reviews10 followers
March 5, 2020
This story was SO GOOD!!! Not only is it set in New Mexico, and by a local author, but it absolutely displays the beauty and mystery of New Mexico expertly. I loved that "spanglish" was used throughout the entire story, and while there is a glossary of terms in the back, the phrases aren't explained at each use, so the flow isn't broken.

This book also has a special significance for me. They first started plotting this when I was in college, and it has finally come together, over 12(ish) years. That's hugely inspiring for me, because my novel has taken awhile to write and many people I know are impatient with its progress. To see such a beautiful story come to fruition after so long gives me hope.
Profile Image for Amanda.
86 reviews
March 30, 2020
I really loved how this book incorporated old and new cultures. It was able to talk about things happening today with modern technology in the beginning and then transformed into more a fairytale -esque story. This is a really great story about family, friendship, forgiveness, and redemption. I loved that it incorporated Spanish and the New Mexcian dialect. There is also a really helpful glossary in the back for those who do not speak Spanish, like myself. This story had a great whimsical feel and fun magical elements. There were also a diverse set of characters that each brought their unique culture to the story.
Profile Image for Homewood Library.
101 reviews6 followers
August 18, 2020
The story in this book is interesting, intriguing, and envoloping. The heroes are recognizable, and the villain is too. The lines between hero and villain and fuzzy in the best way possible. The art is clear and gorgeous. You see this cover? The vibrance? The illumination? All. The. Way. Through. Absolutely fabulous. Worth every second of time, and the Cookies & Comics discussion group really wants another installment. - Miss Kelly
12 reviews
March 15, 2021
This was a very interesting story to say the least, a bit unusual at times but overall it had a great message if you can read between the lines a bit. Really lovely illustrations as well. This story takes many turns, from turning the boy into a pot or a chair I believe because he was teasing someone, to teaching you not to make fun of people. This story went in a few different directions but overall a good read.
January 17, 2022
Engaging story, beautifully illustrated. Read cover-to-cover within an hour of purchase. I particularly loved the exploration of grief, creencias (folktales), family, and love through the lens of New Mexico's Latine and indigenous cultures. I look forward to buying copies for nieces and nephews of all ages who enjoy graphic novels and New Mexico.
Profile Image for Chrissy.
925 reviews20 followers
March 13, 2021
Folk tale of the Southwest, incorporating elements from the Spanish and the Native American tribes of the Rio Grande valley. Gorgeous art work. I loved all of the Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout.
Profile Image for Danielle Bezaire.
2 reviews1 follower
April 11, 2022
This book captured my 5 year old's imagination like no other. We live right here in New Mexico and it has given him a connection to this place in a whole new way. The publishers were so amazing, they even sent us some monster/curandera stickers! Thank you so much!
1 review
March 10, 2020
Beautiful story about about the power of family and New Mexican mythology woven together to make wonderful and fascinating adventure with beautiful graphic art.
1 review
January 28, 2021
Fantastic, magical, and fun, great for all ages. Story emphasizes the importance of family, love, and forgiveness. Beautiful story, beautiful characters, and beautiful illustrations.
1 review
July 21, 2021
Beautiful art work and great New Mexican fairytale full of adventure, love and magic.
Profile Image for Dontreadlikethem .
97 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2020
This graphic novel jumps into the action right away. Three children are running away from what can only be a witch according to the youngest one. One of the characters gets turned into a cow and the others join this fate as well. This book is fast paced. However, I did get lost here and there. One of the things I value is the glossary/translations for all of the Spanish words throughout the text. Children ages 8 and older would enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Bec.
628 reviews60 followers
December 10, 2019
Actual rating: 4.5

Under the Cottonwood Tree is a classic tale - a creepy old bruja in the forest punishing reckless, meddling children. It then becomes a tale of magic, understanding, forgiveness, grief and family.

The gorgeous story-telling throughout this graphic novel complements perfectly with the Mexican influence that is scattered throughout. From the Spanish language throughout the dialogue to the inclusion of Mexican mythology and folklore, a wonderful fantastical feel has been created. And don't worry! The story comes complete with a glossary if you feel a bit out of your depth.

The characters are fun and flippant in many ways, with the childish characteristics of our main characters really becoming a highlight of the story. And rather than a "villain" we have a morally grey antagonist that teaches us an important and touching moral.

The illustrations as well are gorgeous, only adding more to the fantasy and atmosphere this story weaves.

If you are looking for a book that is brimming with culture and fantasy, this is absolutely a fantastic choice.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews

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