Monday, July 1, 2019

Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows

Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows
by Ryan Calejo
Recommended Ages: 10+

Charlie Hernández is this kid in Miami whose parents up and disappeared one day. Then weird stuff starts happening to him, stuff that nothing in his experience has prepared him for except – and this is a weird exception – that it increasingly reminds him of the Hispanic folklore his late grandma used to teach him. Charlie doesn't know where to turn when, for example, horns pop out of his head and, later, he breaks out in feathers. Other than a suspiciously friendly girl at his school, who may or may not be interested in him only as a subject for a school newspaper story, poor Charlie has to face an increasingly scary succession of Latin American and Spanish monsters all on his lonesome – until a secret society devoted to fighting the darkness is revealed to him.

A boy's quest across the magic of multiple countries, united only by a Spanish-speaking culture, would be thrilling enough. More than Charlie's life is at stake, though. His adventures work on a similar level to Rick Riordan's repackaging of Greco-Roman, Egyptian and Nordic myths and legends, complete with the present-day kid's street-wise attitude and goofy sense of humor. Another book this reminded me of is The Avion My Uncle Flew, with its clever way of getting the reader to read (maybe aloud) words and phrases in a (ha, ha) "foreign" language, in this case Spanish. I think it's a lot of fun, and I would recommend it not just as an edifying lesson in cross-cultural understanding but as a solid piece of entertainment. And that, amigos, is as American as apple empanadas.

This is Ryan Calejo's debut novel. A sequel, titled Charlie Hernandez & the Castle of Bones, is set for release Oct. 22, 2019.

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