Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Cuevas, Adrianna. The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez
May 12th 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nestor and his mother move to Texas to live with his father's mother while his father is deployed. He's not happy, because this is his tenth first day of school in a new place, and it wasn't a necessary move. He refuses to unpack, because he knows the chances are good that he will have to move again. He does enjoy being with his abuela, who is a great cook, and he does make some friends at his school, including Maria Carmen and Talib. Nestor can hear animals talking, which leads to some interesting experiences, especially since Talib's dog, George, has disappeared and Maria Carmen's family has lost some goats. Abuela has been seen heading into the woods with a knife, leading to speculation in the neighborhood that she has something to do with the pets' disappearances, but Nestor does not think this is the case. He has more concerns about his science teacher, Ms. Humala, who seems to have something to do with a massive snake hanging around the place. The animals, including an injured coyote, tell Nestor that there is an evil tule vieja (witch) in the area, and Nestor and his friends (including a bully who turns out to be friendly and helpful) try to keep everyone safe.
Strengths: I am always looking for books about children with parents in the military, but they are difficult to find. This had a nice amount of details about Nestor missing his father, but also concentrated on what Nestor was going through. I also loved that the grandmother was from Cuba, and it seemed like she might have been sent over with Operation Pedro Pan (she was put on a plane by her parents and spent time in foster care, so seems possible). There are lots of phrases and folklore that add to this cultural connection. His friends are helpful and understanding of his special abilities, and Ms. Humala is a complicated character.
Weaknesses: I wanted to know a LOT more about why Nestor could talk to animals. We get a little more information at the end, but I could have used more details about that as well as the tule vieja.
What I really think: I wish this had a better cover. This style of cover, with the dark background, don't circulate well in my library. I like so many of the details, and enjoyed the story very much, but it will take a lot of handselling to get my students to pick this up.
Ms. Yingling

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