Review: Lowriders in Space
Back Matter. At a recent panel on Nonfiction Books at the NYC School Librarian Conference, I heard authors and publishers talk about the back matter in books. And it was pretty much agreed that the back matter had some of the most interesting tidbits in the book. Sometimes it pays to read the back matter first. I wish I had in this case. The notes in the back explain all about the history of Lowriders and add a dimension to the book that prompted me to read it a second time.
Lowriders in Space
Written by Cathy Camper. Illustrated by Raul the Third.
Chronicle Books. 112 p.
$22.99 hc. ISBN 978-1-4521-2869-6.
Recommended for grades 4 and up
Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love to work on cars. When given the opportunity, they enter a contest for the chance to win a trunk load of cash, which could be used to open up their own garage. They take bits and pieces of junk and transform a trash heap, ready to be put out for scrap, and create a magnificent ride, which receives its finishing touches through an intergalactic trip to space.
The narration is lyrical, peppered with Spanish phrases, which are translated on the page and in a glossary in the back. So many elements of poetry are present in the narration. There’s an unmistakable rhyme pattern, though it does not carry over to the dialogue. There’s alliteration and short sentences that when read aloud can be put to music.
The artwork is equally as strong if not stronger, rounding off this title to be pitch-perfect. The colors, hues of red, white, and blue, give the book a real patriotic feel. There’s a frenetic energy in the artwork, pulling the eye in every which direction to get every detail. The whimsical characters are fun, but I would love to see what Raul the Third could do with human characters.
The notes in the back of the book, just a column of information in a tiny font, describe the history of Lowriders, which goes back to World War II. The bit of history shared by the author added another dimension to the story and prompted me to go back and read the book again, so I could appreciate the history in this fantastical portrayal of real life and a very real culture.
Though I do wonder about the intended audience, I think this is a worthwhile read that will probably have readers glad to see there’s a little “book 1” printed on the spine of the book.
This review is based on a complimentary advanced reading copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Chronicle Books.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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