Review of Tag Team and Training Day

Tag Team [El Toro & Friends]
by Raúl the Third; illus. by the author; color by Elaine Bay
Primary    Versify/Houghton    56 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-358-38039-9    $9.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-39372-6    $6.99

Training Day [El Toro & Friends]
by Raúl the Third; illus. by the author; color by Elaine Bay
Primary    Versify/Houghton    56 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-358-38038-2    $9.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-39265-1    $6.99

This easy-reader spinoff series dives into lucha libre action with the fantastical cast from the author’s ¡Vamos! picture books (beginning with ¡Vamos!: Let’s Go to the Market, rev. 3/20). In Training Day, Kooky Dooky, the ever-peppy and loony rooster, is determined to prepare El Toro for his big match against The Wall (who is undefeated), but El Toro wants to linger in bed and snooze. Eventually Kooky lures El Toro out of bed and all around town, where he chases chickens, smashes piñatas, and “helps las abuelitas cross the street,” sharpening his senses, speed, and patience while basking in the motivational cheers from the town’s surreal-looking creatures. Tag Team finds El Toro and his tag-team partner, La Oink Oink, the morning after their exhilarating win against the evil duo Donny Dollars and Bald Águila, unable to savor triumph’s afterglow because El Coliseo is a spectacular mess. With boom box amped, El Toro and La Oink Oink bust out their lucha moves, battling sticky floors and clogged toilets and getting the job done. Simple sentences and recognizable — yet entirely fresh and original — plot structures set up young readers for accomplishment. Visual and linguistic whirls and twirls match the fast-paced tempo of lucha libre, serving up dazzling Chicano English and details such as El Toro’s “teléfono watch-o,” the “Punk Nopal” graffiti tag on a bathroom wall, and the revving lowrider onomatopoeia “RRREEOW!” of La Oink Oink’s tricked-out ranfla. This pizzazz echoes throughout the chillante palette of matte violet, teal, and orange hues, animating the dynamic motion lines in comic-book-style drawings, rewarding attentive eyes and ears with endless detail and inside jokes.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Lettycia Terrones

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