Review of Alebrijes

Alebrijes Alebrijes
by Donna Barba Higuera
Intermediate, Middle School    Levine Querido    336 pp.
10/23    9781646142637    $18.99

On Higuera’s barren post-apocalyptic Earth, Pocatels rule over the Spanish-speaking Cascabels, refugees from the San Joaquin Valley, forcing them to live in squalid tent cities, endure long hours harvesting potatoes, and subsist on next to nothing. Thirteen-year-old Leandro and his younger sister, Gabi, impoverished and orphaned Cascabels, plan to escape the Pox, as their settlement is called, but when Gabi is caught stealing a strawberry from a fruit seller, their scheme is thwarted. Leandro takes the blame, and he’s sent to the Center of Banishment for the theft. He’s given a choice: banishment or have his consciousness transferred to an alebrije, an Old World animal drone. He chooses the alebrije: as a drone hummingbird, he’s free to fly from the confines of Pocatel, but his choice comes with conditions. For one, he’s tasked with finding the daughter of one of the ruling directors and returning her to Pocatel. On his quest, Leandro uncovers the lies of the government; finds La Cuna, a legendary verdant paradise of the Cascabels; and discovers what it means to be a hero. With its social and environmental commentary, this fast-paced and imaginative novel tackles issues of deception and control and leaves one with a sense of wonder that a single flap of a wing or a solitary voice can bring about unimaginable change. An epilogue gratifyingly ties this book to Higuera’s Newbery Award–winning The Last Cuentista (rev. 9/21).

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Yesica Hurd

Yesica Hurd is a children's librarian at the Berkeley Public Library at the Central Children's Room.

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