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Loteria book cover


illustrated by Dana Sanmar

Eleven-year-old Clara searches for her missing cousin Esteban, not knowing that Life and Death have come to Oaxaca City and selected her as a pawn in their annual Lotería game.
Loteria book cover

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Karla Arenas Valenti kept a deck of Lotería cards handy while she was writing Lotería. Whenever she would sometimes get stuck on the plot, she would shuffle her deck and flip the top card to see what image she got. Then she would use that image as part of her next scene! 

See what stories Lotería cards inspire your students to write! Have them work in pairs and deal a few Lotería cards to each pair. Ask them to use the cards to create a main character (protagonist), a character that goes against the main character (antagonist), and the conflict they have. For any group that gets stuck, have them take another card and incorporate it into their story. Students can add illustrations to their stories before sharing them with the class.  

Questions for Discussion or Reflective Writing

  • Clara has bad feelings about not being good enough at cooking or singing or other things her family members are good at. What does it take to be good at something? What do you want to be good at? 
  • Do you believe there is free will and we have control over our own lives, or do you think that everything is predetermined?
  • The debate of free will versus determinism is a strong theme in Lotería. What other themes and topics did the book address? How are those themes tied to the free will versus determinism debate?
  • Have you ever played a game of Lotería? Why do you think the author chose to organize her story around this game?
  • How do the cards shape Clara’s life? What else shapes Clara’s life? Would you say the book had a happy ending? Why or why not? 
  • Bringing magic into day-to-day reality is a style of fiction and art known as magical realism. How did you like the use of magical realism? What other books have you read that tell a story with magical realism? 

Related Resources

Educational Resources from Karla Arenas Valenti:

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