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Salsa Magic

Author/Illustrator: Letisha Marrero
Ages 9-13
Published September 26, 2023
$ 1899 USD



A magical debut middle-grade novel filled with loud but loving family members, santería, and powerful orishas, set in New York City.

Thirteen-year-old Maya Beatriz Montenegro Calderon has vivid recurring dreams where she hears the ocean calling her. Mami’s side of the family is known as “Los Locos,” so maybe she actually is going crazy. But no time for that; the family business is where it’s at. Whenever Maya, her sister Salma, and her three cousins, Ini, Mini, and Mo, aren’t at school, you can usually find three generations of Calderones at Café Taza, serving up sandwiches de pernil, mofongo, and the best cafés con leche in all of Brooklyn.

One day, an unexpected visit from the estranged Titi Yaya from Puerto Rico changes everything. Because Yaya practices santería, Abuela tells Maya and the other Calderon children to stay away from her. But If la viejita is indeed estranged from the family, why does Maya feel so connected to this woman she has never met before? And who is this orisha named Yemaya? On top of figuring all this out, Maya has a budding soccer career to consider, while fending off the local bully, and dealing with nascent feelings toward her teammate. But through it all, there’s that alluring connection to a forbidden ancient practice—filled with a pantheon of Yoruban gods and goddesses—that keeps tugging at her, offering her a new perspective in life, tying her past to her present and future. Which path will Maya choose to fulfill her destiny?


★ “Beguiling… Maya’s lively voice dazzles amid a standout cast that includes her lovably unruly cousins as well as memorable neighbors and classmates of varied Black and Latine heritages. In this evocative multigenerational tale, Marrero cultivates a rich N.Y.C. setting that feels like a character in itself, bursting with even richer depictions of cultural traditions.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

★ “An expertly written exploration of an Afro-Latine family’s history and the pantheon of West African gods. Marrero’s debut beautifully weaves together themes of family trauma, first crushes, spirituality, and history as Maya embarks on her journey of self-discovery. An uplifting, beautifully rendered story of family bonds and embracing the unknown.”
Kirkus (starred)

★ “In this novel steeped in family lore and West African Yoruba beliefs, Maya navigates old ideas and thirsts for new knowledge as she discovers how she fits into her vibrant family and the world beyond. ­Maya’s first-person narrative… is endearing and relatable, and peppered with Spanish. Readers are transported to the streets of ­Brooklyn and treated to the sights, sounds, and smells of life in the restaurant. Characters are as diverse as the streets of New York.”
School Library Journal (starred)

“Richly textured… Marrero, who is of Puerto Rican and Black Dominican descent, does a wonderful job of weaving the spiritual into corporeal affairs like soccer matches, clumsy flirting and sibling rivalry. But it’s Maya who ultimately steals the show.”
—Matt de la Peña for the New York Times Book Review

“A spirited debut about finding oneself, familial love, and forgiveness.”

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