Sydney Salter’s JUNGLE CROSSING is a story within a story; a rich Mayan legend tucked within a modern (yet reluctantly embarked upon!) Mexican cultural adventure. Thirteen-year-old Kat is so full of attitude that I found myself thrown right back to my own stupid, embarrassing junior high times when I wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else — anywhere else — away from whatever forced family fun my parents had cooked up. I could totally relate to her — the clueless parents. The younger sibling tag-along who elicits love and adoration from every onlooker. The inverse relational graph of popularity to proximity of one’s seat to the bus driver. The utter insecurity of not fitting in. Fear of the unknown. Kat’s ignorance-to-awareness evolution from somewhat bratty kid to sensitive, lovable teen is paralleled by her Mayan tour guide’s telling of the ancient legend of Muluc, a Mayan princess who also must shed her assumptions in order to learn about and adapt to the different and often-tumultuous ways of the outside world. I loved the intersection of the stories and am certain the spunky, good-natured Kat will win an audience with readers looking for a fun multicultural adventure story.
About JUNGLE CROSSING
Thirteen-year-old Kat can think of dozens of good reasons not to go on a boring family vacation to hot, grungy Mexico. Number one: missing her friend Fiona’s minicamp. If she’s not there, she’ll begin eighth grade as a social reject. And it looks like she’s the odd girl out on vacation, too. When Kat’s parents arrange for her and her younger sister, Barb, to go on a teen adventure tour, Barb makes more friends than she does. The only person who will talk to Kat is Nando, a young Mayan guide (who happens to be quite a cutie). Each day as they travel to different Mayan ruins, Nando tells Kat and Barb another installment in the original legend of Muluc, a girl who lived in the time of the Ancient Maya. The dangerous, dramatic world in which Muluc lives is as full of rivalry, betrayal, jealousy, and sacrifice as Kat’s world at school. And as she makes new friends and discovers new treasures in Mexico, Kat begins to wonder: Is she willing to keep sacrificing her self in exchange for popularity?
Kat’s 2009 Debut Party
The Guest List
I’d invite girls who really know how to be themselves like Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. Lizzie from Lizzie at Last by Claudia Mills. Leslie from The Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. And Clara Luna from What The Moon Saw by Laura Resau because she also loves Mexico.
Oh, and there have to be some boys. Nice guys like Steven Alper from Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. And Julian Carter-Li and Danny Lopez from Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French.
Yay. I love Stargirl, and anyone from the creative genius of Laura Resau is a friend of mine!
We’re having a big fiesta at Kat’s favorite Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City. She wishes she could fly everyone to Nando’s village in the Yucatan, but… There will be lots of food, music, dancing, friends of all ages. And everyone stays up way too late. The theme? Mexico! We’ll have red, white, and green streamers, sombreros to wear, Mexican music, all kinds of Mexican food, and maybe a pinata. Guests will take home those cute bobble head turtles. Kat’s little sister Barb bought a million of them in Mexico.
You had me at lots of food, Mexican food, and cute bobble head turtles!
The Guest of Honor: Kat
What will Kat wear? Anything but that stupid dress with the watermelons that her mom bought at the hotel gift shop. If she’s feeling daring enough, she’ll wear that pretty white dress with the embroidery around the neck. And her theme song? A really pretty Mexican folk song that reminds her of Nando’s village.
Sydney’s Advice for Kat on Her Big Debut
Enjoy celebrating with your true friends! (Oh, and please be nice to your sister.)
Wishing all the best to my agent-sister Sydney and her wonderfully spirited MC, Kat, on their big debut! JUNGLE CROSSING is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.
Sydney Salter’s fascination with Mayan culture started when she was six years old and climbed down a steep, dimly lit stone staircase to the elaborately carved tomb of King Pacal who had once ruled Palenque. Visiting Mayan ruins, walking through fragrant Mexican market places, watching women wash clothes in a river, and chasing lizards in the jungle ignited the spark in Sydney’s imagination that led to writing Jungle Crossing. Sydney now lives in Utah with her husband, two daughters, two cats, and two dogs. She loves reading, writing, cooking, and traveling—especially to Mexico where she can explore ancient Mayan ruins and swim in underground rivers. Visit Sydney online.