Review of El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!

El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!
by Donna Barba Higuera; illus. by Juliana Perdomo
Preschool, Primary    Abrams    40 pp.    g
7/21    978-1-4197-4445-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64700-311-1    $15.54

Ramón, a Mexican American boy, is scared of starting school in a new town. El Cucuy, the Bogeyman in Mexican folklore, lives in a cactus pot in Ramón’s room. Like Ramón, he too is anxious about being in a foreign setting. By talking it out and remembering the ways they have been there for each other, Ramón and El Cucuy realize that they can take on this new place together. Higuera fluidly intersperses Spanish words throughout the text, and their meanings can be inferred from context. She also inserts other Mexican tributes, for instance when Ramón recalls singing “Cielito Lindo,” one of the most popular songs in Mexican culture. These additions grant a depth to Ramón’s backstory and show his individuality while highlighting the differences he may encounter in his unfamiliar environment. Perdomo’s digital illustrations in vibrant hues pay homage to Ramón’s heritage, including the endpapers done in a serape pattern. The drawings appear in a two-dimensional style, but the characters are expressive; El Cucuy’s emotive eyes show his vulnerability, making him likable and nonthreatening. This genial story of overcoming one’s fears alongside a traditionally feared entity will encourage youngsters to be brave in the face of adversity.

From the July/August 2021 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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