The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Farrar. Jul. 2020. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374313609.
Gr 4-7–With a dad in the military, Nestor has moving down to a science: pack his bedroom in under five minutes, keep his head down at the new school, and make sure people don’t learn he can talk to animals. For Nestor, each stop is nothing more than a countdown until he moves again. But this move is different. Nestor and his mother have come to New Haven, TX, to live with his Cuban abuela while his father is deployed to Afghanistan. Nestor has another new experience when he inadvertently makes two friends, Maria Carmen and Talib, who soon come to Nestor’s aid. Animals have been disappearing throughout New Haven. Forest creatures tell Nestor that it is the work of a tule vieja, a witch who can absorb characteristics of an animal by biting it during a solar eclipse. But the people of New Haven begin whispering that Nestor’s abuela is responsible. With an eclipse approaching in days, Nestor, his friends, and an unlikely ally head into the woods to confront the tule vieja and rescue the town. Cuevas crafts a riveting story based on folktales from Panama and Costa Rica. Spanish words and Latin American customs are integrated throughout. Despite rising tensions in the town which result in overt hostility against his family, Nestor overcomes years of self-imposed isolation to learn that being a friend means allowing people to help you. Additionally, he and his friends are forced to probe beneath the surface of the class bully, who is pulled into their quest. Magical folklore provides the foundation for the plot, but themes of home, family, and friendship are the core of the book, with a heaping dose of creepiness to make it morefun.
VERDICT Hand this unique story to fans of “Rick Riordan Presents” and students looking for scary books.

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