Bernardo, Carlos’ cousin whom he hasn’t seen in years, is temporarily moving in with Carlos and his family.
As in the prior two installments of the series, this title features an elementary-age, male protagonist of color. Carlos has recently discovered his love of animals. He’s motivated to work hard in school, and he keeps pets that help him learn more about animal behavior, including his prized geckos. Carlos doesn’t know much about Bernardo, just that he has had what is vaguely defined as a “hard year.” When Bernardo arrives, Carlos isn’t sure what to think. He finds himself sharing his room, his class, his soccer team—everything—with Bernardo. He wants to make Bernardo feel welcome but grows increasingly frustrated with his cousin’s sneaky and aggressive behavior. Appropriately, given the tight focus on Carlos’ perspective, the book doesn’t focus on the details of Bernardo’s challenges but rather on the ways in which he acts out, at times behaving as a bit of a bully. Eventually the tension boils over into a confrontation, followed by a somewhat rushed resolution and a lesson about empathy. Many independent readers, particularly boys, will identify with these characters and their struggles.
The series continues to present appealing and likable characters gently exploring the moral dilemmas of childhood. (Fiction. 6-9)