Book Review: 13th Street: Battle of the Bad-Breath Bats by David Bowles, illus. by Shane Clester


Review by Emily R. Aguiló-Pérez


DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante are visiting their aunt Lucy for the summer. But on their way to Gulf City’s water park, they get lost on 13th Street. Only it’s not a street at all. It’s a strange world filled with dangerous beasts! Will the cousins find their way back to Aunt Lucy’s?


MY TWO CENTS: This early chapter book is full of adventure, mystery, fun, humor, and family love! Writer David Bowles and illustrator Shane Clester present the first of many adventures that cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante will have on the mysterious 13th street. In a short 87-page book, readers are able to learn a lot about each cousin’s personality–Malia is the leader, Ivan is the visionary, and Dante is the gamer–and how they each contribute when facing the Bad-Breath Bats.

I truly enjoyed this first book in the series, so much that once I finished it, I immediately ordered books 2-4. In addition to keeping readers engaged through friendly (and some not-so-friendly) characters and an intriguing story, the book engages readers through a series of “checkpoints.” For instance, the last page of each chapter depicts a progress bar with numbers that indicate which chapters the reader has completed. The last page of some chapters also includes a character from the story speaking to the readers and celebrating how far the reader has made it thus far. To further engage readers, the book includes a series of activities to “Think! Feel! and Act!” after having completed the story.

Bowles and Clester have created a fun and interactive story that has set the tone for a delightful series. After reading this book, young readers will be eager to continue following the cousins’ adventures.


TEACHING TIPS: Teachers can use this early chapter book to foster independent reading. Specific components of the story can be used to model descriptive writing – for example how Bowles is able to help the reader smell the bats’ bad breath just through words. Teachers can also use the book to teach about setting and brief yet effective character development.

Check out this and other books in the series, published by Harper Collins, here.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bowles is the award-winning Mexican American author of They Call Me Güero and other titles for young readers. Because of his family’s roots in Mexico, he’s traveled all over the country studying creepy legends, exploring ancient ruins, and avoiding monsters (so far). He lives in Donna, Texas. You can visit him at



ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Shane Clester has been a professional illustrator since 2005. Initially working in comics and storyboards, Shane has transitioned to his real passion – children’s books – even self-publishing several of his own. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and their two tots. When not illustrating, he can usually be found by his in-laws’ pool. You can visit him at





ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Emily R. Aguiló-Pérez (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of English (Children’s Literature) at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.  Her teaching and research are in the areas of children’s literature (particularly Latinx literature), girlhood studies, and children’s cultures. Her published work has focused on girlhood as represented in literature and Puerto Rican girls’ identity formation with Barbie dolls. She has presented research on Latinx children’s books at various conferences and has served on children’s book award committees such as the 2017 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the 2018 Pura Belpré Award. Currently, she is part of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s “A Baker’s Dozen” committee.

Book Review: The Sofia Martinez series by Jacqueline Jules

By Ashley Hope Pérez

This review is based on an advance reader’s copy of My Family Adventure, which is a multi-story volume with “Picture Perfect,” “Abuela’s Birthday,” and “The Missing Mouse.” These texts are also sold as separate early chapter books.

PUBLISHER’S DESCRIPTION: Growing up in a big family, 7-year-old Sofia Martinez is used to fighting for attention. Her outgoing personality mixed with her confidence and fiery passion for everything she does gets her that attention — even if it’s sometimes mixed with trouble. Sofia is a little stubborn and a lot mischievous, so you can imagine the fun she creates in this early chapter book series. A few Spanish words and phrases are intermixed throughout the story, bringing the importance of Sofia’s culture to life. Discussion questions, writing prompts, and a glossary complete each book.

MY TWO CENTS: The Sofia Martinez series is a lovely addition to the world of early chapter books. All newly published in 2015, each of the books can stand alone, and they needn’t be read in any particular order. Lively main character Sofia keeps herself in the middle of the action in her loving, playful extended family, and her adventures are light and joyful with a touch of mischief. The charming illustrations by Kim Smith will bring giggles to young readers.


Suited well to the needs, interests, and sense of humor of early readers, the books will have broad appeal for the K-2 crowd. Although the prominence of pink in the book design may attract more girls and turn off some boys, my son enjoyed reading the stories. He especially like what he called Sofia’s “tricks.”

In “Picture Perfect,” Sofia decides to switch her school photo with one of her sister’s, and she’s disappointed when no one notices the swap. The same evening, a baby cousin gets tons of attention because of the enormous pink bow she’s wearing in her hair. When picture days rolls back around, Sofia is determined that this time she’ll stand out. Any guesses as to what Sofia borrows to put in her hair on picture day?SofiaM_bow

“Abuela’s Birthday” centers on Sofia’s (very messy) plan to make a piñata for her grandmother’s birthday. Once the mess is cleaned up, she persuades Tía Carmen for one more chance, and with the help of her cousins and siblings, Sofia makes a great piñata. Even the surprise inside of the piñata—playing cards instead of candy—shows Sofia’s creativity.

In “The Missing Mouse,” Sofia gets advice from Abuela and help from her cousin and sisters to recapture a runaway classroom pet without disturbing her mother while she gives a piano lesson. The solution involves a good deal of creativity and improvisation. A bucket, some blocks, peanut butter, and a few shrieks from her sisters are also involved.

Kim Smith’s illustrations bring the accessible language of the stories to life. Sofia is at the center of most of the drawings—and her freckles and expressive face had me enchanted from the start. But my favorite illustration of all might be this one from “Abuela’s Birthday”:

SofiaM_Please?It’d be hard to deny those four a chance to try again with the piñata endeavor.

The production of these books is especially thoughtful. The use of pink for words in Spanish produces an effect much like what Sofia achieves by wearing an enormous bow for her school picture. It marks Spanish as special–and very much part of Sofia’s world.


In general I’m not much of a fan of glossaries, but here, I think it works well as a support for teachers and students not familiar with the Spanish, and a glossary is definitely preferable to embedded translations.

When readers graduate from the world of Sofia Martinez, they can dip right into Jacqueline Jules’s Freddie Ramos/Zapato Power series for slightly more independent readers (grades 1-3).

TEACHING TIPS: The Sofia Martinez series is a great match for students in K-2 (possibly stretching upward a bit for students who have literacy skills in Spanish but are transitioning to reading in English). Think of readers who are beginning to read on their own and for whom the idea of a chapter book has appeal. The advance reader’s copy did not have the discussion questions or writing prompts mentioned in the publisher’s description, so I can’t comment on those.

Instead, I’d like to talk a bit about the linguistic opportunities offered by the series. The change in color for Spanish words inScreen Shot 2015-01-31 at 10.32.36 PMphrases in the Sofia Martinez books will help young bilingual readers recognize when they should apply what they know about Spanish decoding and pronunciation and when they should follow the norms of English. I can imagine this as a confidence builder for Spanish-speaking students learning English in bilingual, ESL, or English-only settings (“Look! You already know these words in Spanish!”). Teachers in English-only classrooms might consider making their Spanish-speaking students “experts” on the Spanish words and phrases when sharing the stories in small or large group. Non-Spanish speakers may take pride in knowing the “secret” words in the story and, with a little coaching, will be able to handle the small amount of Spanish even when reading aloud.

Teachers might pause students on pages where we see Sofia’s “I’m getting an idea” facial expression. What do they think will happen next? When she gets into a pickle, as in “Abuela’s Birthday” and “The Missing Mouse,” ask students to suggest, draw, or journal about the solutions they would try to solve the problem. In Spanish-English bilingual classrooms, students might also experiment with using Spanish their own stories. Using the color switch technique from Sofia Martinez can strengthen students’ sense of pride in their Spanish abilities while also signaling to monolingual guests or administrators that the movement between English and Spanish is intentional and linguistically appropriate. More importantly, this narrative tactic is culturally relevant to the young people sharing their stories.

Above all, have fun with Sofia!


Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of more than twenty children’s books, many of which were inspired by her work as a teacher and librarian. She is also an accomplished poet. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Jacqueline enjoys taking long walks, attending the theater, and spending time with her family. She lives in Northern Virginia.



Kim Smith has worked in magazines, advertising, animation, and children’s gaming. She studied illustration at the Alberta College of Art and Design and is the illustrator of several children’s books and the designer for the cover of the middle-grade novel How to Make a Million. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.