Reviewed by Marianne Snow
DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Nikko loves bedtime. That’s because his bed turns into a magical wrestling ring for the masked luchadores that he loves. They bounce up and down like crazy. His mom, of course, doesn’t believe Nikko. She accuses him of jumping on his bed. But that’s just not true at all. She just can’t see what Nikko sees. And to prove his point—zoosh! Here comes luchador numero UNO with a golden mask and a silver cape. Oh, wow. Number TWO wears an orange mask with yellow flames. Another looks like a jaguar and he growls! A rooster! A bull with horns! And a dragon that breathes fire! And so it goes until TEN luchadores are jumping on Nikko’s bed. That’s when the Great and Mighty Nikko puts on his mask, taking on all ten wrestlers at once and defeating them soundly. Ahh, a fresh victory under his belt, now it’s time for Mighty Nikko to catch some zzzzzs!
MY TWO CENTS: As an early childhood teacher and aunt to several little ones, I’m always on the lookout for exciting new picture books that will capture young readers’ attention and, ideally, trick them into learning. Happily, Xavier Garza’s new dual language concept book – The Great and Mighty Nikko! / ¡El gran y poderoso Nikko! – fits the bill, bringing together the exhilaration of lucha libre and the practical skill of counting. Young readers will love how the tension mounts as, one by one, rudos (rascally wrestling opponents) join forces on Nikko’s bed / wrestling ring to challenge him in the ultimate pre-bedtime match. They won’t even notice that they’re learning as they anxiously turn the pages to count the ever-growing group of opponents. Meanwhile, Garza’s bold use of color, fluid brush strokes, comic-style layout and variety of luchador masks in his illustrations add to the drama. What an entertaining read – I’ll definitely be adding this lively tale to my educational library!
TEACHING TIPS: The Great and Mighty Nikko! / ¡El gran y poderoso Nikko! is the perfect addition to a preschool learning unit about sports, or teachers and students can simply enjoy it as a fun read-aloud. In addition to counting the luchadores on each page, children can practice their analytic skills by making predictions about what will happen when Nikko finally faces off against his opponents. Moreover, inviting children to join in on each page’s refrain – “Now there are ___ luchadores wrestling on my bed! / ¡Ahora hay ___ luchadores luchando en mi cama!” – will help them develop their bilingual pre-reading skills. Since the comic-style layout might be unfamiliar to young readers who are used to “traditional” written narratives, teachers can point out specific textual elements like speech bubbles and sound effects text. Comics and graphic novels are extremely popular with kids, so learning these features can benefit them in the future. With so many interesting facets, this book has something to teach every child.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Xavier Garza is a prolific author, artist, and storyteller whose work is a lively documentation of the dreams, superstitions, and heroes in the bigger-than-life world of South Texas. Garza is celebrated for his lucha libre picture books and chapter books. Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel was a Pura Belpré Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book in 2012.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about The Great and Mighty Nikko! / ¡El gran y poderoso Nikko!, check your local public library, your local bookstore or IndieBound. Also, check out Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
Marianne Snow Campbell is a doctoral student at The University of Georgia, where she researches nonfiction children’s books about Latin@ and Latin American topics and teaches an undergraduate course on children’s literature. Before graduate school, she taught pre-K and Kindergarten in Texas, her home state. She misses teaching, loves critters, and can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.