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

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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: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Caballo Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2015

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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