An unsubtle and unengaging attempt to educate children on border issues.

THE CHUPACABRAS OF THE RÍO GRANDE

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 4

Uchenna and Elliot join Professor Fauna on a trip to the southern border to rescue the mythical chupacabras.

In this borderland adventure of the Unicorn Rescue Society, Peruvian Professor Fauna whisks Uchenna and the ever reluctant Elliot out of class and flies them down on a dilapidated plane to Laredo, Texas. The trio’s mission is to rescue a baby chupacabra, whose pack’s feeding pattern has been disrupted by a border wall. In this fourth installment of the series, Gidwitz seeks to provide credibility and authority on border topics by bringing on Mexican-American author Bowles as a co-writer. However, their effort to incorporate complex topics—such as environmental and immigration issues—into an otherwise formulaic and predictable plot falls short, as the complexities of border life are constantly pointed out and explained by adults. As in previous installments, one of Professor Fauna’s ex-colleagues makes an appearance to aid the group in thwarting whatever species-endangering scheme the Schmoke brothers may have concocted. The encounter between Dr. Cervantes, a Mexican-American professor teaching at Texas A&M, and her former mentor creates tension between the adult characters, forcing the children to become spectators who simply learn and imitate the correct behaviors from adults. Uchenna presents black and Elliot, white.

An unsubtle and unengaging attempt to educate children on border issues. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3179-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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