lowriders-in-spaceIt’s always a busy day at Cartinflas Used Cars/Carros Usados. Lupe Impala (mechanic extraordinaire), Elirio Malaria (small, winged, and talented detailer), and Flapjack Octopus (fastest car washer north of the Salton Sea), exemplify teamwork in all that they do and the customers appreciate it; too bad that their boss is a jerk. They hope someday to save enough money to open their own shop. And they want a car to get around in—”They’d seen some cars blast by fast…and others that could shift and drift… but they wanted a car that would go low and slow…bajito y suavecito.” They don’t get paid a lot, so their best chance, as they see it, is to to use their teamwork, talents, and free resources to win the Universal Car Competition, “the most mechanically inventive, exquisitely detailed cosmic car wins!”

In Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third’s world, the streets are filled with dust, faded signs, and anthropomorphic creatures. The pages of Lowriders in Space are textured and faux stained by coffee, setting up a base layer of worn-in atmosphere. The panels and characters are drawn in shades of black, blue, and red, like a tri-color ballpoint pen wielded by a very imaginative and car-obsessed Mexican-American dreamer. It’s gritty and hopeful, sparkles shine out from under a layer of dirt, and street art and old-school handpainted billboard art inflect style that matches the tone of the tale.

Throughout the book, Lupe, Elirio, and Flapjack joyfully code-switch, and their Spanish phrases are translated in footnotes and a glossary at the back. The friends have to travel far beyond their streets to find the key to winning the Universal Car Competition. In search of the perfect steering wheel they embark on a cosmic journey through the universe, powered by old rocket parts found in an abandoned airfield. Their lowrider whooshes and flames, and they meet every small bump in the road with a smile and a can-do attitude.

The joyfulness of Lowriders in Space, partnered with its matter of fact embrace of Mexican-American culture, makes it a shoo-in for younger readers who want to read something with some diversity and a great sense of fun. They’ll have a blast taking in all the details of the cityscapes, learning some Spanish vocabulary and phrases beyond what they got in Dora, and maybe have an urge to help wash the family car afterwards. And as the title page states that this is Book One, hopefully this is not the end of Lupe, Elirio, and Flapjack’s adventures.

Lowriders in Space, volume 1
by Cathy Camper
Art by Raúl the Third
ISBN: 9781452128696
Chronicle Books, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 8-14

  • Tessa Barber

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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