DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Señoras y señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind…Niño! In a single move, he takes down his competition! No opponent is a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño, world champion lucha libre competitor!
MY TWO CENTS: As soon as you take a glimpse of the book cover, you know that Yuyi Morales is presenting you with a treat of pint-sized lucha. The colorful and mixed-media artwork and its wrestling match layout, capture the energy and enthusiasm of the characters and lucha libre itself. Written in English with a dash of Spanish words and onomatopoeias, readers are exposed to an action-packed picture book filled with elements of Mexican and other Spanish-speaking cultures.
“¡Niño! ¡Niño! ¡Niño!” It is through this chant that we are introduced to Niño, a paleta eater, toy-loving, and acrobatic boy. Once Niño puts on his luchador mask, contenders such as La Momia de Guanajuato, La Llorona and Cabeza Olmeca, line up to challenge him. With his playful lucha style, Niño challenges his opponents with puzzles, dolls, marbles, popsicles and tickles, showing how Morales playfully incorporates childhood glee into this wonderful homage to lucha libre. At the end of the story we also meet Niño’s toddler sisters, who are mischievous and loud and drive Niño crazy! This is where Yuyi Morales uses the opportunity to capture and address siblings’ relationships, while showcasing the “best move” to defeat sibling rivalry.
I could not deny that it crossed my mind that Niño Wrestles the World, plays as a homage and retelling of the legacy of Mexican lucha icon, El Santo. Like El Santo, once Niño puts on his luchador mask, he never takes it off. Like El Santo, in his movies, Niño challenges the mummy of Guanajuato, the llorona, and aliens. And you could say that when later in the book Niño joins his sisters and challenges new opponents, we are seeing a retelling of adventures where El Santo joins fellow luchadores Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras. Setting the wonderful El Santo references aside, in this picture book we have a fun and energetic story and lovable characters that will release the inner luchador or luchadora in kids and adults of all ages.
Niño Wrestles the World is the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Winner and was named a highly commended title by the 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award. It was also included in a series of list such as A Fuse #8 Production 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2013, School Library Journal Top 10 Latino-themed Books of 2013, Fanfare (Horn Book’s list of the best books for young people published in 2013), Center for the Study Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Multicultural Books of 2013 and Latinas for Latino Lit Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2013.
TEACHING TIPS: While early readers and kids between the ages of 4-8 might enjoy reading this picture book, it is through the activity of reading aloud that its energy and humor really stands out. Adults and childrens’ librarians can read the book, while teaching new vocabulary and words in Spanish to kids.
Language Arts, Visual Arts, and Social Studies teachers (pre-school- 2nd grade) could also use Niño Wrestles the World with their students. The book is filled with fun onomatopoeias, adjectives and words in Spanish, which will attract students to the language learning process. Art teachers can collaborate with Language Arts teachers with the masks of the different characters of the story. Templates of different lucha masks are available on Yuyi Morales’ website, or you can be creative with your own mask!
The elements of Mexican culture exposed through Niño’s opponents, the trading-card-style information of each opponent (includes pronunciation), and Yuyi Morales’ illustrations provide the opportunity to incorporate them into Social Studies curricula. Educators should be provided with resources and materials that will serve as tools to bring multiethnic/multicultural exposure and discussion into the classroom. This is especially relevant now since Mexican American and Latin@ Studies curricula and books are constantly challenged in the U.S. public education system.
AUTHOR: Yuyi Morales is a Mexican author, illustrator, artist, and puppet maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Physical Education from the University of Xalapa, México and used to host her own Spanish-language radio program for children in San Francisco, California.
She has won numerous awards for her children’s books such as the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), the Pura Belpré Author Honor for Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009), the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004), Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for My Abuelita (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004).
Morales divides her time between the San Francisco area and Veracruz, Mexico. Her lastest picture book Viva Frida! will be released in September 2014.
Enjoy this video of Yuyi Morales reading Niño Wrestles the World!