Lowriders in Space - Cathy Camper, Raul the Third

It's not like the concentration on graphic novels and picture books was deliberate this month, but it's happening, and I'm not opposed! I didn't read enough graphic novels and comics as a kid, so I'll just consider this to be making up for lost time!

Lowriders in Space is just plain fun! In this story about a group of friends trying to win a car contest so they can get the prize money and eventually open up their own shop, Camper and Raul the Third combine humor and a unique illustration style to great effect. Young readers will enjoy the cast of characters—a mosquito (Elirio Malaria), an octopus (El Chavo Flapjack), and Lupe Impala. Together, the group can fix pretty much anything, and make whatever it is look brilliant at the same time. The three want to open their own shop, but without money, they are out of luck, until they notice a sign telling them about an opportunity to win some cash by building a lowrider car. The three agree to enter the competition, and thus begins the adventure.

The story itself is not existential or all that overtly complex, but the combination of Camper's writing and the illustrations of Raul the Third make for an enjoyable and fast-paced adventure, peppered with laughs and learning opportunities throughout. The book comes complete with a glossary of Spanish words and scientific terms, making this an ideal graphic novel for classroom use and for anyone wanting to expose children to the Spanish language and early understanding of space and science. There is also a wonderfully informative note on the history of the lowrider car and its connection with Mexican American history.

Flapjack is probably my favorite, but I always did love wacky creatures with huge eyes who get into all sorts of mischief. He's so talented he can make red sand into seat covers! I also love that the book features friends driving lowrider cars through the vacuum of space with no consequences in terms of, well, breathing or exploding/freezing. Though I suppose with a talking octopus who lives out of water, I shan't get picky!

The novel does appeal more to those who like cars or who are interested in mechanics, but this does not mean individuals who aren't car fanatics will suffer while reading Lowriders. This book is told in an almost fairy tale style, using exaggeration and folk tale imagery to move the story forward. All in all, this is a fun and educational (don't tell the kids!) text for young readers, brought to you by the always brilliant folks down at Chronicle Books.


(Note: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out November 2014)


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