Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel by Xavier Garza

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Garza, Xavier. Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel. Cinco Puntos Press, 2011. $12.95, 207 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.angelfire.com/folk/artes/artists/artist/xavier.html

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: Max meets his all-time favorite luchador the Guardian Angel and soon learns that they are connected by much more than a love of lucha libre.

Summary:

Max, his father, and his Uncle Lalo all have a love of lucha libre.  The masks, the characters, the history.  Max’s favorite luchador is the Guardian Angel.  He is thrilled when his father takes him to a match where he gets to see the Guardian Angel in person!  Imagine his surprise when, after falling on his head in the ring with the Guardian Angel, the Guardian Angel turns out to be his mother’s Uncle Rodolfo, who had disappeared years ago and that everyone thought was dead.  Uncle Rodolfo returns with Max to reconnect with the family, and the summer starts becoming like one of Max’s lucha libre movies!  Uncle Lalo’s ex-girlfriend Sonia (who happens to be a luchador herself) starts bothering Uncle Lalo and his new wife.  With Uncle Rodolfo’s help, a fundraising tag-team lunchador match is set up at the church to help settle the matter with Sonia.  Max’s summer turns out a whole lot more interesting than he ever imagined.

Evaluation:

A truly enjoyable read, Xavier Garza fills the story with humor and his obvious love of lucha libre.  The characters and plot are as over the top and unbelievable as the luchadors themselves.  However, like lucha libre, they are so fun that the reader cannot but help suspend disbelief and wholeheartedly root for the technicos.  The novel is a bilingual novel with English on one side and Spanish on the other.  Poster-like illustrations are sprinkled throughout the novel as well, calling to mind character cards or posters of wrestlers.  The culture of lucha libre is fully embraced in the novel, but even those who do not know what it is, are able to access the story.  Underlying the fun lucha libre storyline is the universal theme of the importance of family.  Uncle Rodolfo’s reconnection with his family, Lalo fighting for his new family, Max’s obvious pride in his family, and the way that they all stick together to solve a problem shines through.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction

Appeal Factors: lucha libre, Mexican culture, family relationships, humor, comics

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Maximilian and the Bingo Rematch by Xavier Garza
  • Body Slammed by Ray Villareal
  • Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Pura Belpre Honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Meeting the Guardian Angel
  • Uncle Rodolfo and Max talking about why Uncle Rodolfo left in the first place
  • The tag team match

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • How are the characters exaggerated like the luchadors?
  • How is the theme of family conveyed through the story?
  • How is lucha libre like a family?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this novel because it was about lucha libre at the middle grade level. I am always on the look out for books that middle school students would enjoy.  I think that it would definitely appeal to middle school students who are reluctant readers.

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The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales

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Canales, Viola. The Tequila Worm. Wendy Lamb Books, 2005.  $7.99, 199 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:  http://violacanales.blogspot.com/

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: Coming from a world of cascarones, tequila worms, and tacos for lunch, how will Sofia fit in to the elite ritzy boarding school?

Summary:

Sofia loves living in McAllen.  From her Aunt Clara’s grab bag of stories which they tell to remember their history, to street soccer after school, to Papa’s fajitas, to preparing for her best friend’s quinciñera, her world is filled with good food, great friends, and warmth and love from her family.  Despite being teased as a “taco head,” Sofia excels in school and in soccer and is offered a scholarship to a boarding school in another town.  Her family and friends work together to get her prepared for this completely different world.  At Saint Luke’s, Sofia learns how to make peace with her Mexican identity amidst prejudices and preconceived notions.  Her roommate Brooke and fellow scholarship student Marco help her along the way.  Soon Sofia is able to travel between home and school at peace with who she is.

Evaluation:

This heartwarming novel tells the familiar story of a struggle with race and identity.  The characters are vividly portrayed and are engaging and endearing.  Sofia’s soccer coach who shares her lunch and wisdom with Sofia is a minor character but a prime example of an truly likeable character.  When kids make fun of Sofia’s lunch of tacos, her coach offers to trade half her lunch, and makes a big deal over how good the tacos are.  She also encourages Sofia to “kick” the other girl “with her head.” Sofia’s conflicting emotions and thoughts are realistically portrayed as she tries to fit in both in McAllen and at St. Luke’s.  The love between the family members and friends flows off the page and bathes the readers in warmth.  The structure of the novel is comprised of many vignettes that show glimpses of Sofia’s family and culture. From each vignette Sofia learns something or changes in some way.  There are some major shifts in time, but mostly of a linear fashion. This story is one of a beautiful coming of age and embracing of one’s heritage.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:  3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction, coming of age

Appeal Factors: Mexican culture, identity

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
  • House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Pura Belpre Award
  • Children’s Notable Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Taco Head and lunch with Coach
  • Eating the tequila worm with Berta and Lucy
  • First day at St. Lukes

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • How does the author use the tequila worm throughout the novel?
  • How has Sofia become a comadre?
  • What does Papa mean by saying that they have their own wealth in McAllen?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this novel because of its title.  I had never heard of curing homesickness with a tequila worm.  I was also curious to see how Sofia’s experience would pan out in the boarding school.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh

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Tonatiuh, Duncan.  Pancho Rabbbit and the Coyote.  Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013.  $16.95,

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.duncantonatiuh.wordpress.com

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:

When Papa Rabbit does not come home from his travels up north, Pancho decides to go looking for him himself.

Summary:

Life on the rancho is not providing enough for the rabbit family, so Papa Rabbit, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster head north to search for more opportunities.  The rabbit family prepares a welcome home fiesta complete with papel picado, mole, tortillas, and aquamiel.  However, Papa Rabbit does not arrive home when he is supposed to.  Pancho, his eldest son, decides to go looking for Papa.  He is “helped” by Coyote, who takes him on a perilous journey on a fast moving train, through a swirling river, a dark, narrow tunnel, a dizzying desert.  Each leg of this journey takes something from Pancho.  Finally, it is his life in danger when he runs out of things to give to Coyote and Coyote then threatens to eat him.  Fortunately, Pancho is saved by his father, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster, who had been delayed and waylaid by crows.  They return to the rancho, and although there is no guarantee of money or a future, the family vows to stay together.

Evaluation:

This portrayal of the migrant story is sadly true.  Tonatiuh’s portrayal of this migrant family’s experience, even though they are rabbits, serves to show children reasons for migration and the challenges in migration.  The fictionalized characters do not soften the often harsh realities that migrants must face.  From the Coyote, that ironically is the name of that is used by immigrant smugglers, to the crows who steal from Papa Rabbit and his friends, to the perilous journey Pancho Rabbit makes to find his father, these are all realistic obstacles and struggles that migrants face crossing the border, especially from Mexico to the United States.  Tonatiuh’s use of Spanish words makes the story seem even more true.  It is helpful that he includes a glossary at the end of the story, as well as a discussion of the issue of immigration, especially undocumented and illegal immigration.  The references and resources also provide readers with additional places to find out more information about immigration.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  realistic fiction

Appeal Factors:  migrant story, animal characters, Mexico

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • My Shoes and I by Rene Colato Lainez
  • A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Pura Belpre Honor Book
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Books

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Reason for Papa Rabbit to go north
  • Pancho’s decision to follow Papa Rabbit
  • Coyote turning on Pancho

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Do you think Papa Rabbit should return north without his family?  Is it safe for his family to go with him?
  • What can the animals from the rancho do about Coyote and others like him?
  • Do you know of anyone who has had a similar story to the rabbit family?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this picture book because it was an illustrated and fictionalized version of the immigrant story that is very familiar here in Southern California.  I was interested in seeing how the story would be depicted if told as a fiction story about a rabbit family.

Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

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Morales, Yuyi. Nino Wrestles the World.  Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, 2013.  $16.99, 40 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.yuyimorales.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:
Nino the luchador will take on any competitor.  But what happens when he’s faced with Las Hermanitas?

Summary:

Meet Nino the luchador.  He meets any contender that is willing to challenge him.  From La Momia de Guanajuato to Cabeza Olmeca to El Extraterrestre and El Chamuco.  His signature moves include the tickle tackle, puzzle muzzle, and Popsicle Slick!  But his most fearsome match is against Las Hermanitas.  Their fighting style is biting, puling hair, poking eyes, and anything imaginably rude.  To make matters worse, they are still not potty trained.  What will Nino do when faced with these terrible two?

Evaluation:

A fun read by an award winning author/artist/puppet maker/radio host.  Chock-full of brightly colored illustrations, stylized onomatopoeia word bubbles, and fun signature moves, Nino Wrestles the World takes a look at the imagination of a young boy turned luchador.  The front and back book covers hold profiles of each of the competitors Nino faces, detailing pronunciation of names, personality, birth place, temperament, battle cry, and lucha style.  The use of Spanish words may be more challenging for some readers.  It may have been helpful to include translations of the names of some of the other wrestlers as it would help readers understand why they were named as such.  The fun illustrations call back to the first illustration of Nino with his toys, and shows that the wrestling is taking place in his play room amidst the toys he has scattered around.  The message of dealing with younger siblings, two younger sisters to be exact, is a sweet, wholesome message of family unity.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  picture book, fantasy

Appeal Factors: luchadors, lucha libre, illustrations, use of imagination

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Big Daddy, Frog Wrestler by Maribeth Boelts
  • Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask by Xavier Garza

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Pura Belpre Award
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Nino as a luchador
  • Nino versus Cabeza Olmeca
  • Nino versus Las Hermanitas

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • How can you tell that Nino is imagining wrestling with toys?
  • Who would you be if you were a luchador?
  • Think of a signature move for Nino to use against another competitor.

Why I Chose This:

I chose this book because of the little luchador in his undies on the cover.  The topic of lucha libre is something that my husband’s family enjoys, and so I thought I may enjoy reading a picture book featuring a child pretending to be a luchador.  The brightly colored pictures and the fun fonts and text were also appealing.