Catalina Incognito

Aladdin. Mar. 2022. 128p. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781534482784.
Gr 1-3–In this first installment in a new delightful series, Mexican American Catalina Castañeda turns eight, receives a magical sewing kit from Tía Abuela, learns to try new things, and solves a mystery. Torres successfully strikes a balance between the realistic family-oriented plot and the light infusion of magical elements. Readers have ample opportunity to get to know good-natured “persnickety” Catalina, who pays close attention to detail, organizes her books by color and author’s last name, and is outgrowing her family nickname “Kitty-Cat.” The story zips along as readers become invested in Catalina’s quest for the truth. The inclusion of Spanish terms and phrases lends a sense of authenticity to the characters, while the use of English translations organically integrated into the narrative will assist young readers with comprehension without pulling them from the story. Foreshadowing and black-and-white illustrations help readers both predict and visualize the key magical moments in the book. Chapter book readers ready for slightly smaller font with some advanced words will enjoy Catalina’s spunk and humor, her relationship with her sparkly Tía Abuela, and the way in which Catalina learns to navigate the world. Simultaneous publication of volume 2, The New Friend Fix, with volume 3 and 4 planned for later in the year ensures that children will get a chance to go on more magical mystery adventures with Catalina.
VERDICT A strongly recommended choice for chapter book collections. Hand to fans of Mindy Kim or JoJo Makoons.

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