The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, by Adrianna Cuevas

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, by Adrianna Cuevas (Farrar Straus and  GirouxMay, 2020) is an excellent pick for the kid interested in folk-tale and myth inpsired, diverse real-world fantasy, who isn't quite old enough to really appreciate the more "tween" books like those of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.   Which is to say, basically, a nine to ten year old (more or less) who likes good stories about likeable kids, that have magic and danger in them.

Nestor has been moving all his life (his Dad's in the military).  This new move to a small town in Texas is different--it's to his he and his mom will be living with his Cuban grandmother while his dad is deployed in Afghanistan.  His loves his Abuela (and her cooking), and it's cool to be in the house where his dad grew up.  But even so, Nestor has no desire to unpack and make friends at a new school, since he's sure he'll be uprooted again sooner rather than later.

So far, so ordinary...but Nestor isn't ordinary.  He can talk with animals.  And the animals in the new town are strangely agitated.  Something is very wrong in the scruffy woods at the edge of town, and there are missing animal posters everywhere....Two kids, Talib and Maria Carmen, become his friends at school, and they both have missing animals.   What is going on?

Nothing good.  A witch out of folktales, a tule vieja, has come hunting.  The three kids band together to track her down, and drive her away.  They have to confront her before the coming solar eclipse, because in that darkness her power will be greatest.  But what on earth are they supposed to do? Fortunately, with the help of an unexpected ally, Brandon (a bullying, animal-trapping kid) and help from the local animals, they succeed!  (more happens but that's the gist of it.  That being said, spider averse readers, you might want to stop reading about  6/7 of the way through....)

The Brandon sub-plot was the only thing that didn't work for me.  I think more could have been done with the transition of the nasty, bullying kid from enemy to friend, which was rather rushed, and not as well-explained or subtle as I'd have liked.  This is also a trope that I feel comes up all too often. 

That being said, this is one I'm happy to recommend!  It's a nice mix of real-world concerns  (a distant dad in danger, military family life and moving, bullying, making friends) and fantastical ones (talking to animals, defeating an evil witch), with a great, diverse cast of characters.  There are quite a few book series for 8-10 year olds about kids and mythical creatures  (the Pipp Bartlet series, Magical Animal Rescue series, and the Unicorn Rescue Society and  Nestor's adventures seem like just the thing to offer next--there's the animals in danger, who in this case help out their human friend after he helps them, with the fantasy element of the evil witch to push the plot toward higher, more middle grade, stakes.  Nestor's raven buddy will be especially popular with this group!

It's a stand alone story, but the possibility of more stories about Nestor and his friends is there, which would be great.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the spider-averse heads up. That would be me. This sounds like a terrific book and there is a real need in that space. Thanks for the post.


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