Charlie Hernandez #1 By: Ryan Calejo
Published: October 23, 2018
What a terrific start to a series. Fun, fast-paced adventure story featuring a Hispanic protagonist and introduces readers to Latin folklore, legends, and myths.
Charlie Hernandez is a middle grader whose parents have recently gone missing. Shortly afterwards, he notices that there are horns growing out of his head, later followed by feathers. On a side note, he starts to develop the feathers during the school day which leads to some pretty embarrassing moments of him trying to hide them. But, as he is trying to figure out what is going on, he finds a locket that had belonged to his mother. With the help of his new friend (or blackmailer), Violet, they notice the locket contains a map. It is this map that ultimately leads them to discover that all the myths and legends his abuela has shared with him over the years might actually be true.
One thing this story does extremely well is introduce us to multiple aspects of the Hispanic culture. Not only do we get shown various monsters from legends, but also food and language. What really impressed me was how effortlessly the author introduces us to phrases or terminology without it being cumbersome to read. I remember a children’s book I once read that was bi-lingual, except during the story the readers weren’t always told what something meant or given context clues and it ultimately made the reading more difficult than it needed to be. In this story, Charlie often finds himself having to figure out which monster he is in contact with, which in turn helps the reader learn about them too. One of my favorite parts is when he is with a particular monster who is upset that Charlie can’t figure out who she is. She keeps telling him all the various names people have called her throughout the years trying to get him to recognizes just one of them. She gets so exasperated with him until she finally hits on one he is familiar with. I mean, I suppose if you are going to choose to be a monster you definitely would want folks to known who you are. Right? After all you need to be recognized in order to give that big monster/evil character speech that all villains are known to do.
Here are just some of the monsters/folklore characters Charlie and Violet meet along the way:
- Sihuanaba – a ‘shape-shifting spirit’ originating from Central America, whose face can resemble a horse.
- The Just Judge – Salvadoran legend of a man with a hat dressed in black on a horse who believes the night belongs only to him.
- El Sombreron – Guatemalan legend of a bogeyman or goblin who wears a big, large hat and is seen as a gangster.
Overall, a fantastic read and one that had me racing to the Internet to learn more about the monsters and myths presented in the story.
Rating: 5 stars
The Lightning Thief meets the Story Thieves series in this middle grade fantasy inspired by Hispanic folklore, legends, and myths from the Iberian Peninsula and Central and South America.
Charlie Hernández has always been proud of his Latin American heritage. He loves the culture, the art, and especially the myths. Thanks to his abuela’s stories, Charlie possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the monsters and ghouls who have spent the last five hundred years haunting the imaginations of children all across the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Central and South America. And even though his grandmother sometimes hinted that the tales might be more than mere myth, Charlie’s always been a pragmatist. Even barely out of diapers, he knew the stories were just make-believe—nothing more than intricately woven fables meant to keep little kids from misbehaving.
But when Charlie begins to experience freaky bodily manifestations—ones all too similar to those described by his grandma in his favorite legend—he is suddenly swept up in a world where the mythical beings he’s spent his entire life hearing about seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Hispanic folklore and into his life. And even stranger, they seem to know more about him than he knows about himself.
Soon, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ancient battle between La Liga, a secret society of legendary mythological beings sworn to protect the Land of the Living, and La Mano Negra (a.k.a. the Black Hand), a cabal of evil spirits determined to rule mankind. With only the help of his lifelong crush, Violet Rey, and his grandmother’s stories to guide him, Charlie must navigate a world where monsters and brujas rule and things he couldn’t possibly imagine go bump in the night. That is, if he has any hope of discovering what’s happening to him and saving his missing parents (oh, and maybe even the world).
No pressure, muchacho.