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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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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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