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[Saturday Reads] Viva La Mexico! Gabi meets Niño – Picturebook and YA novel that celebrate the Mexican-American Experience


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.


While I know that I could very well come up with a collection of Mexican-American picture books and YA novels separately, I just felt that these two characters are spunky, spirited, and so filled with life, that it would be interesting to put them together.


Gabi: A Girl In Pieces

Written by: Isabel Quintero
Published by: Cinco Puntos Press (2014)
Book borrowed from NIE Library.

I must have read this book in two days. Such was Gabi’s voice: filled with sass, spunk, and raw truth that one can not help but turn the pages to find out what happens next to this girl in pieces. There is a LOT going on in the novel that it does seem like a telenovela of sorts: a meth-addict father, a pregnant mother, a younger brother mixed up with the wrong crowd, a Bible-quoting Aunt who lives a double life. Then there’s Gabi’s friends – from gay Sebastian who was disowned by his bigoted father to Cindy who is the postergirl for teenage pregnancy and date rape. How Isabel Quintero weaves all this together in a coherent fashion is a testament to the sad fact that life can truly be this messy and chaotic on occasion. Gabi is the one voice, the one thread that puts everything together, no matter how seemingly disparate all these pieces are.

At one point, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps it would have been best if Quintero simply just focused on one or two particular aspects or developed two or three characters more fully rather than introduce so many narratives, each one packed with their own heavy-going issues – from date rape to abortion to dealing with one’s sexuality. It’s like she is afraid that this is the only novel that she is EVER going to write and so she packs it all in here – and with a zine to boot.


What saved it for me, perhaps, was the poetry. While the poems written by Gabi and her boyfriend (Martin, who I believe is simply too good to be true) can sometimes be inordinately long, it was still pulsing with life. I also felt that the novel could have done with better editing (“And right away people starting moaning” – p. 205) and an economy of language. Regardless, these are minor issues – given how important a novel like this is for a lot of young people in all its brazen language, its fearless attempt to cut to the heart of emerging womanity, and what it feels like to be constantly plagued by self-consciousness that eats at one’s insides. I can imagine a lot of young women holding this book in their hands and saying: Finally! A book about my life.



Niño Wrestles The World

Written and illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
Published by: A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brooks Press, 2013)
Book borrowed from Jurong West Public Library.

This picturebook has all the ingredients for a great read-aloud: scary villains, SLISHY-PACHATAS sound effects, and  a lucha libre with creatures from the underworld. Of course, they are no match for the “fantastic, spectacular, one-of-a-kind” Niño!


Do not be fooled by that seemingly-innocent baby look of his. When he puts on his mask and puts up his muscled arms – he is transformed into a skull-bumping, doll-toting, tickle-master Superhero and not even the Guanajuato mummy nor the La Llorona stand a chance.


Even the fierce El Chamuco is no match for Niño. In the Philippines, this kind of villain is often called El Diablo or the devil himself:


However, like all superheroes, our Niño has his Kryptonite: his baby sisters or Las Hermanitas! Has Niño finally met his match? You have to read the book to find out.


This is one romp of a picturebook – you want adventure? you want monsters? you want a battle of a lifetime? You got it here. Don’t even get me started with the endpapers:


The typography – the entire concept and book design all come together in an explosive, festival-esque manner that is in keeping with the essence of lucha libre which according to the Author Note found at the end of the book is “a theatrical, action-packed style of professional wrestling that’s popular throughout Mexico and many other Spanish-speaking countries.” While I love most of Yuyi Morales’ books, this by far is my favourite. This is one fun book that you should definitely add to your library.


Gabi: A Girl in Pieces – Winner of the William C. Morris Award for YA Debut Novel, 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015 Tomás Rivera Book Award, Works for Older Children

Niño Wrestles the World – Pura Belpre Illustrator Award, Georgia Children’s Book Award Master List (University of GA), Charlotte Zolotow Award / Highly Commended, Horn Book Fanfare, Colorado CLEL Bell Award , ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI), Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, Georgia Children’s Book Award Master List

#AWBRead2015 Update: (35)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

1 comment on “[Saturday Reads] Viva La Mexico! Gabi meets Niño – Picturebook and YA novel that celebrate the Mexican-American Experience

  1. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Completing the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – Gathering Books

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