The Queen of Water

The Queen of Water


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An ALA Amelia Bloomer Selection
An ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book

Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indígenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta—stupid Indian—by members of the ruling class of mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds.
In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with María Virginia Farinango to recount one girl's unforgettable journey to self-discovery. Virginia's story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375859632
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/13/2012
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 232,810
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Laura Resau lived in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, for two years as an English teacher and anthropologist. She now lives with her husband, her dog, and her son Bran in Colorado, where she teaches cultural anthropology and ESL (English as a Second Language). She is also the author of What the Moon Saw and Red Glass.

María Virginia Farinango has acted in a television movie, had her own radio show, performed traditional dance, run an Andean craft business, and traveled throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. She is studying psychology and has recently started a small holistic day spa in Otavalo, Ecuador, where she lives with her husband and their young son. For more about María Virginia, please visit

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Before dawn, I wake up to the sound of creatures scurrying inside the wall near my head. Mice and rats and dogs have burrowed these tunnels through the dried clay, searching for food scraps. I'm always searching for food scraps too. Right now my belly's already rumbling, and it's hours till breakfast.

The house is dark as a cave except for bits of blue light coming through the holes in the earthen walls. My gaze fixes on a new trail of golden honey oozing from a crack, just within arm's reach. Bees live in there, black bees that sting terribly, but make the best honey in the world. I poke my hand in the crack and scoop out the sticky sweetness and lick it from my finger. It's gritty but good.

Our guinea pigs are hungry now too, squeaking and dancing around in their corner, waiting for alfalfa. I can see every corner of our house from my sleeping place on the floor. Mamita and Papito are snoring under their wool blanket on a bed frame made of scrap wood. My brother and sister are curled up next to me--Hermelinda on the end and Manuelito wedged in the middle--and the fleas and bedbugs and lice are crawling wherever they please. My spot against the wall is cozy, the perfect place for licking honey in secret.

Soon Mamita will awaken, standing up and stretching in her white blouse that hangs midway down her thighs. Then, yawning, she'll wrap a long dark anaco around her waist, golden beads around her neck, and red beads around her wrists. Then she'll open the door and a rectangle of misty morning light will shine into our house's musty darkness. Then she'll light the cooking fire and we'll all slurp steamy potato soup around the fire pit.

If she catches me with honey dripping from my fingers, her face will twist into a frown. When people tell her, "Your little Virginia is vivisima!" Mamita snorts, "Humph, she's clever for stealing food, that's about all."

It's true, I do use my wits to fill my belly with fresh cheese or warm rolls. Or to get something I really want, like a pet goat or a pair of shoes. But there's more. I have dreams. Dreams bigger than the mountaintops that poke at the clouds. In the pasture, I always climb my favorite tree and shout to the sheep, "I'm traveling far from here!" and my tree turns into a truck and I ride off to a place where I can eat rice and meat and watermelon every day.

In the half-light of dawn, I plunge my hand deeper into the darkness inside the wall, searching for honey, dreaming, as always, of golden treasures.

After breakfast, I'm in the valley pasturing sheep under a sky the dull gray of cow intestines, when Hermelinda appears on the hill. I squint up at her. The mountains loom behind her, peaks lost in heavy clouds. She waves her little arms at me, the wind whipping her hair in all directions. "Virginia!" she cries in her squeaky toddler voice. "There are mishus at the house. Mamita says to come right away!"

Mishus are what we call the mestizos. It's a mean word, in the same way that their names for us--longos, or dirty Indians--are mean. With my golden goat, Cheetah, at my side, I climb toward home, urging the straggling sheep along with my stick. Feeling suddenly sick, I call out, "Hermelinda, which mishus?"

"Alfonso and his wife and two others."

I stop in my tracks. Alfonso owns the land my family farms. Lately, he and his wife, Mariana, have made a point of talking to me whenever they visit the fields, asking me questions, eyeing me up and down, then murmuring to each other as they walk off. Alfonso is the one who took my cousins Zoyla and Gregoria away from their parents two years ago. Zoyla and Gregoria and I used to play market together while we pastured the animals. And then, one day, when they were near my age now--about seven--they left with the mishus.

We never heard from them again.

I head up the path, pushing against the crazy wind, kicking at rocks and smacking trees with my stick as I walk. Past the corn and potato fields, my house comes into view, looking small and weak against the mountains towering behind it. I can make out the forms of the mishus sitting on the dirt patio with my parents. My muscles are tensing, the way they do when I see dogs in the distance and I'm not quite sure if they're nice or mean.

I'm grateful Cheetah is at my side. Even though she's only a goat, she loves me more than anything in the world. And she'll do anything to protect me. Once, when a vicious dog tried to attack, Cheetah hurled herself in front of me and rose to her hind feet. "Maah maaah!" she bellowed in its face, slashing the air with her front hooves. The dog had never seen such a brazen goat, and it backed away, bewildered. It's good to have someone love you so fiercely. Even if that someone is a goat.

I rest my hand on her honey brown head and rub her ears, walking slowly, my heart thumping. As I lead the sheep into their pens, I watch the patch of weeds in front of our house where Alfonso sits beside his wife with her ridiculous, huge bun, along with a thin mestizo man. A fat mestiza woman with short hair and a polka-dot dress sits a little off to the side. I take a deep breath, then head toward them, brandishing my stick like a machete. The closer I walk, the hotter my face gets, as though my blood has caught fire.

Mamita is watching the mishus politely as Papito chats with them, his face unusually friendly. As I come closer, Mamita looks up at me and frowns. Her glare orders me to stop swinging my stick and behave.

But I look straight ahead, ignoring them all, and, still swinging my stick, stomp straight into the house.

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The Queen of Water 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
erin-a-kiel More than 1 year ago
I chose to read "The Queen of Water" for a self-selected book project in my English class when it was recommended by one of the librarians at my school. The plot of this memoir made it very hard for me to stop reading at times, and putting myself into Virginia's shoes in some of the situations she went through made me long to reach into the pages of the book and help her. For example, when the Doctorita discovers Virginia's notebook from under the refridgerator, I really connected with how she felt at that moment. Nobody would want their deepest feelings and personal thoughts shared with others, especially someone like the Doctorita, who isn't understanding. Yet when she meets Antonio, who comes from a similar background as the Andean village that Virginia came from, I can imagine how she feels being with someone who truly understands her. Overall, this book portrays a great message about first realizing your dreams and knowing what it is you long for more than anything else, persisting despite being in the middle of a bad situation, and the idea of self-discovery.
jelopudnpop More than 1 year ago
I would recommend The queen of water to others. This book was chosen for my book club. It was a quick read. There is a glossary in the back for the spanish words which was helpful. The ending was the only disappointment but still a great story. Without spoiling it the book does rope you in and has you actually wanting to help the main character.
luliie More than 1 year ago
The book The Queen of Water is personally a really great book and a quick read. It is very easy to understand especially if you are like me and are not an avid reader. It is about Virginia, a young girl about the age of 7-8 years old, who lives in a very small village in Ecuador and is given away by her parents to be, essentially, a maid/house keeper for the rest of her life to Nino Carlitos and Doctorita. Virginia has no say in whether to leave or stay. The deal is done. The next morning she is on her way to Kunu Yaku where her new "owners" live with their newborn son Jamito. The author did a really great job of keeping the reader hooked. I could not put the book down. I kept thinking that she might escape but then something was holding her back. Also I really enjoyed the little Spanish words she put in. it wasn't over powering to the point where I had no idea what she was trying to say, it was just enough. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the ending. I thought it kind of slacked compared to the rest of the book. But all in all I would defiantly recommend this book to almost everyone.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Virginia was seven, her parents sold her to a well-to-do family as a servant. Treated cruelly, she grows to be a teenager, wishing for me. She receives no pay and is never taken back to see her family. She teaches herself to read and write, and looks for a way to escape.
KarenBall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"She'll do. We'll take her."Suddenly, I understand that I have no say in this. Not a shred of power. The decision has been made... This is happening whether I like it or not.Virginia was born in a large but poor family in an Andean mountain village in Ecuador. Society is divided sharply between the working class indigenas, or native Indian people, and the ruling mestizos, or descendents of Spanish conquerors. At age 7, Virginia is taken to the town of Kuna Yaku to be a servant to a mestizo family. She is promised a monthly salary, the opportunity to attend school, and to return home to visit her family. In reality, Virginia becomes a slave to the family, working long hours cooking, cleaning and caring for the babies, while sleeping on the floor, wearing castoffs, and not being allowed to use the same dishes as the family. All talk of salary, school and visits disappears immediately. She has no idea how to escape, as she has traveled hours to get to the town, and has no friends or relatives nearby to help. For eight years, she endures her enslavement, cruelty and beatings, but she teaches herself to read and discovers learning, as well as the occasional kindness of others. She is smart, resourceful, and driven to make something better of her life, even though she's been told over and over that no one wants her, even her own family. A moving and heartbreaking story of courage and overcoming odds at every turn. Based on the author's life, this will stay with you long after you've finished. Beautifully written, for 7th grade and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is heart wretching and i could not put it down
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why is it called queen of water? Does it have anything to do with water? Respond to Caerey
angelica-sanchez More than 1 year ago
The Queen of Water was definitely an amazing book. It tells the story of Virginia, who got taken away from her family when she was only 7 years old. She was taken away from everyone and everything, and placed with a spanish descended mestizo couple and their child, to become their servant. Virginia was abused, both physically and mentally, but she had courage and determination to escape her situation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story of overcoming obstacles. Riveting,moving, and encouraging. Read it one day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a gem. I don't usually find books like these that touch me and make me laugh, cry, blush, and smile. There is no book like this. This will most likley be the best book you ever read. I recomend this book to all. Its a wonderfull story and it stays with you forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NerdGirlHP More than 1 year ago
Really wonderful and touching book. It opened up a whole new culture that I hadn't really read or new anything about. This is a book full of overcoming your circumstances and persistence. It's really amazing. I enjoyed this book a ton. It's really worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wish there were more than 5 stars. I loved this book, it made me laugh and cry. I wish i could read more about her story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The storytelling was great. Vivid imagery keeps you enthralled and unable to put it down.
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If you need advice or help we're the people to see.We can give you advice on Boyfriends/Girlfriends,Fasion,School,and so much more.So if you need some advice look up'help advice'it can be any of the results because we have an entire network of peopl who are ready to give you advice.See ya there. ^.^