Monday, May 9, 2022

The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande

The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande
by Adam Gidwitz & David Bowles
illust. by Hatem Aly
Recommended Ages: 10+

As a newspaper reporter, I was recently typesetting some county dispatch incidents when I came across an item describing a dog that had porcupine quills on its back. Thanks to this book, my immediate thought was, "So, we have chupacabras in Minnesota." Another thing I can thank this book for is correcting the grammar of the word "chupacabra" to the form "chupacabras," singular and plural. I'd never heard that before and I'm hoping it's legit, though we're talking about a piece of Hispanic-American folklore dating all the way back to, like, the 1990s. Anyway, urban myths are myths, and so they have every right to be protected, whatever side of the U.S.-Mexican border (if not both) they lurk on.

Being pulled out of class by the eccentric Professor Fauna, crashing his single-prop plane and encountering legendary creatures has gotten to be a routine deal for Elliot and Uchenna. This time, they're in the border town of Laredo, Texas, trying to find out why the "sucker of goats" has been draining cows of all their blood when, normally, they only take a sip here and a slurp there. It turns out that a baby chupacabras has gotten trapped on the wrong side of a border fence, which the nefarious and follicly challenged Schmoke Brothers are turning into a wall. It's up to the two kids, their slightly mad mentor, and a local family whose mother is a disgruntled ex-member of the Unicorn Rescue Society to set things right, all before Prof. Fauna, Elliot and Uchenna ride off into the sunset (entirely the wrong direction) in an airplane that has no wings.

Like previous installments in this line of stories, the mythical monster turns out to be kind of cute, and the kids learn a little about a foreign language (if you can call Spanish "foreign," which you really can't), and they get caught up in a political controversy (in this case, surrounding the enforcement of border control between two countries). Maybe the big surprise is the amount of room this installment leaves for people of good will to disagree. Nevertheless, the chupacabras is (are) a poster beast for not dividing families.

This is the fourth book of the "Unicorn Rescue Society" series, written by Adam Gidwitz and various co-authors. David Bowles is a professor at the University of Texas and the author of three "Garza Twins" adventures, six "13th Street" books, two "Path" novels, the graphic novel Rise of the Halfling King, the picture book My Two Border Towns, the story collection Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky and the poetry collections They Call Me Güero and They Call Her Fregona.

No comments: