Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Rating: 3.5 stars

Second to the incredibly wonderful winner Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter BrownNino Wrestles the World recently earned a 2014 Golden Kite Award illustration honor.  I think this award is noteworthy because peers--fellow authors and illustrators--nominate and vote for books.  Familiar with Brown's but not Morales' book, I ordered it up at the library and happily lugged it home with us in our always-heavy book bag.  My trio and I read the book together at some meal--me, standing in the kitchen with the book, pausing to refill milk and get yet another dipping sauce that makes meals tastier and them, sitting at the counter, rocking back and forth on the swivel bar stools while they chomped and listened.

Morales provides some background into lucha libre in an author's note at the end of the book.  He explains that it is "a theatrical, action-packed style of professional wrestling that is popular throughout Mexico and many other Spanish-speaking countries."  They represent mythical figures and ancient heroes and villians.  Many luchadores wear masks to hide their identity--the most famous luchador, El Santo, never revealed his true identity.

Nino makes his Puzzle Muzzle move
and Olmec's mind is blown!
The story: Nino is a lucha libre wrestler whose costume is (as you can see above) underwear and a red mask.  He fearlessly takes on frightful opponents one at a time, and dominates them with silly moves like the tickle tackle or the Popsicle Slick (in which he cleverly uses a melting popsicle to make El Chamuco slip).  Nino's last opponents are his two little sisters, awake from their afternoon nap.  Rather than competing against them, they join forces to become invincible.

This is not your typical story with full sentences and plot development.  It's best read in your best WWF announcer voice (think: "Let's get ready to rummmmmm-ble!") and you better be prepared for some wrestling action afterward, particularly if you have, like me, more than one boy-child in your house.  It is, without a doubt, a lot of fun to see a little boy defeat these huge villians in such clever and creative, kid-appealing ways.

El Chamuco
This is definitely an out-of-the-box book that will appeal to some, but not to others.  For me, it's just okay--I can appreciate it but I am not crazy about it.  I think I'm missing a cultural link that might make it more special or meaningful, or at least provide more personal context.  The pictures are really cool with out-of-this-world graphics that jump off the page, having the devil in a children's book definitely throws me off a little.  In fact, having to explain who the devil is the devil (ha ha) to Lorelei and Ben while they slurped milk and tried to get away with using their fingers was not what I expected in my evening.

That said, this book has cool appeal I can't deny.  The illustrations are completely award-worthy, the story inspiring and funny, the ending a cute twist on the rest of the book.

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