“You’ve GATO be KITTEN me!”
Genie, a purr-fect orange cat, has disappeared after a series of earthquakes. Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and El Chavo Octopus must close their garage and follow tiny paw prints to track down their missing furr-end. Along the way they discover more than they bargained for: a giant corn maze, a tricky coyote, a weeping mother, and Mictlantecuhtli: the Aztec god of the Underworld. The Lowriders must rely on their mechanical skill and creative thinking to outwit their latest foe.
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is the punny, adventure-filled sequel to Lowriders in Space. The series follows the adventures of three best friends/mechanics as they navigate their world in their tricked out ranfla, or lowriding car. Spanish phrases are seamlessly integrated into the text, adding cultural flavor and making the story more fun to read. Readers may well find themselves reading out loud—I certainly did! Translations for the text are offered at the bottom of each page, while a handy glossary of all terms and phrases can be found at the back of the book.
I love puns and Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is full of ‘em. English puns, Spanish puns, and BILINGUAL PUNS! Camper does an excellent job of writing dialogue that seems naturally bi-lingual; it’s never awkward or forced. Conversations feel authentic and characters are well developed. Science and cultural history are also interwoven into the story. While the three mechanics are on their journey, they encounter geology lessons, Aztec myths, Mexican wrestling, and a Day of the Dead celebration. The narrative almost resembles a Magic School Bus plot, albeit one that is hipper, a little edgier, and infused with Latino culture.
The coolest thing about the artwork is that it was created using a humble material: ballpoint pen. Raul the Third’s drawings have great detail and a street art flair. Some of the coolest panels combine Aztec imagery with Mexican wrestling Lucha Libre costuming. The colors are simple and effective; blue, red, and black pop off of the cream colored pages. The drawings are stylized like notebook doodles but sophisticated enough propel the story forward. Young readers might be inspired to create their own ballpoint comics!
Teachers and librarians might be interested in sharing the downloadable activity kit that accompanies Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (http://www.chroniclebooks.com/landing-pages/pdfs/Lowriders_ActivityKit.pdf). The kit includes a Spanish language activity, drawing activity, and comic creation activity. Put some printouts on a table with pens and paper and you have an instant activity station!
“Bajito y suavecito” (low and slow) might be the way Lupe, Elirio, and El Chavo travel, but it’s not the way this graphic novel reads. Although Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is a sequel to Lowriders in Space (2014), the story can stand alone, leaving readers furiously flipping pages to find out if these amigos will rescue their gato and get their ranfla back to the garage!
Lowriders in Space; Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, Book 2
by Cathy Camper
Art by Raul the Third
Chronicle Books, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12