Recommended for children who enjoy ghost stories and spooky mysteries, with Spanish lessons as an educational bonus.

Perla Garcia and the Mystery of La Llorona, The Weeping Woman

The first installment of Alvarado’s mystery series introduces Perla Garcia, a bilingual little girl and aspiring detective who’s determined to uncover the truth behind a local legend.

Perla and her dog, Valiente (Spanish for “brave”), live in El Barrio de Guadalupe in the south plains of western Texas. As the story’s narrator, she peppers her introduction with Spanish words, including English translations. This method is used sparingly enough that young readers will be likely to remember most terms; Alvarado also reinforces the Spanish terminology with repetition and provides a Spanish/English key in an afterword. Perla and Valiente enjoy solving mysteries, and their first case involves La Llorona (“the weeping woman”), a macabre legend about a mother who lost her babies in a river. (Caretakers and teachers should note that this story may be best for slightly older children, as the premise is rather dark.) According to the legend, the traumatized ghost of La Llorona haunts the river by re-enacting her original tragedy—stealing others’ infants and throwing them in the water. Nowakowski‘s black-and-white illustrations set the tone for this eerie story; however, the cute, cartoonlike illustrations of Perla and her friends serve to lighten the mood. As Perla bravely endeavors to solve the mystery, she learns more through her observations and various clues. Alvarado clearly explains Perla’s deductions so that young readers can make similar inferences and participate in the investigation. The story’s climax occurs when Perla, left alone by the river, believes that she sees the frightful Llorana. However, when she faces the shadowy figure head-on, her fear subsides to empathy when she realizes it was all a misunderstanding. Perla concludes the story by urging readers to investigate their own mysteries. Overall, the book’s subject matter and extensive text will work best for emerging readers.

Recommended for children who enjoy ghost stories and spooky mysteries, with Spanish lessons as an educational bonus.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9840418-8-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Caballo Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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

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. 19, 2019

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