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MARI AND THE CURSE OF EL COCODRILO

A delightful horror novel with emotional and cultural resonance.

A Cuban American girl who’s ashamed of her heritage contends with a curse—and a gift—from her ancestral land.

Twelve-year-old Maricela Feijoo just wants to be a normal sixth grader and avoid the scorn of her racist white bully neighbor, Mykenzye. But her family’s “ridiculous traditions” are constant sources of shame. On New Year’s Eve, when they “reach Peak Cubanity” and the time comes to burn the effigy representing last year’s bad luck, Mari spots Mykenzye recording her and pockets the doll instead. Later, a painful black crocodile-shaped mark appears on Mari’s arm and with it, all manner of bad luck and scary visions befall her: Maggots infest her food, her pencils turn into worms, and a creeping black shadow writes ominous messages. The curse jeopardizes her upcoming mariachi audition; worse, her best friend, Keisha, develops the same mark, imperiling her shot at the elite fencing team. When Mari accidentally summons the ghosts of dead relatives, she learns she has the family gift of magic. By learning about her ancestors, Mari realizes that only by embracing her Cubanity—and her family, past and present—will she be able to break the curse. Dynamic action scenes rendered in vivid detail bring Cuevas’ imaginative (and terrifying) interpretation of Cuban cultural traditions to life, while Mari’s relationships provide a rich emotional backdrop. Strong plotting, high stakes, and the curse’s evolving rules of engagement make this a satisfying page-turner.

A delightful horror novel with emotional and cultural resonance. (author’s note) (Paranormal. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780063285491

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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