Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Lowriders in Space

Lowriders in Space

Spring 2015 Picture Books
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Cathy Camper
Illustrator: Raul the Third
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9781452121550
Hardcover Price: $22.99

A Latino graphic novel designed to entertain, educate and inspire elementary- and middle-school kids? That's the concept behind this quirky, upbeat, hardback cartoon tale of three odd friends whose shared automotive passion propels them into an improbable space odyssey.

Lupe Impala is a mechanically gifted antelope-like girl; Elirio Malaria is a ladies-man mosquito-like detail artist; and Flapjack Octopus is a friendly eight-armed car-polishing Mollusca. All three labor at a car dealership but dream of owning their own garage and car, specifically a low rider-one of those souped-up, close-to-the-ground cruisers that hop and lunge around the barrio streets of Southern California.

One day, they hear about a low-rider competition: Create the most "mechanically inventive, exquisitely detailed cosmic car" and win a carload of cash! So they found a junker and got to work, scavenging used parts, even some rocket parts from an old airplane factory. When done, their lowrider proved destined for high rides-like into the stratosphere and beyond!

While the book's underlying lessons are about the positive qualities of friendship, teamwork and following your dream, the author and illustrator cleverly include other educational nuts and bolts. Once their lowrider rockets into outer space, automobile tidbits share space with astronomical facts within the wacky, colorful, cartoonish art that pumps each page with high-octane energy. Spread throughout the story are Spanish terms (all footnoted) and images drawn from the Latino low-rider subculture and Mexican pop culture.

While not all parents and children may relate to the low-rider and graphic-novel subcultures, this off-beat book is a bold attempt at diversifying children's literature. And there's potential for reader cross-over from comic books to graphic novels.

Don Oldenburg   ©2015 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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