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.

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.