This is my first Lowriders book, so admittedly there was a lot going on that I really don’t feel confident that I understood, but even with that, it was a sweet story of first love (crush), Arab and Latinx joy, humor, social activism, environmentalism, gentrification, and fun. I don’t know that the other books in this middle grades series explain the characters or their world any more or less, so I think it can be read as a standalone book, and I think the 140 page detailed illustration filled pages will tempt even the most reluctant readers to give it a try.
Sokar is an Arab Muslim monarch butterfly, and the fires have taken so many of her family, and cut the survivors off from being able to safely migrate. She comes to town with a broken wing and in desperate need of help, only to find prejudice against her at every corner, until she meets the Lowriders: Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio. Lupe is an impala, Elirio a mosquito, and Flappy a land octopus with brand new glasses who falls for Sokar at first sight. Sokar, however, has concerns with the environmental impact the lowrider car has knowing that the fires and pollution are all related. Add on that the Upscale Business Association gentrifying the neighborhood, and everyone is going to need to work together to save the monarchs, the neighborhood, the environment, and a tender friendship. As characters find connections between Arab and Latin foods, Arabic and Spanish words, the readers will find similarities from the real world with this crazy one with people, animals, insects, and flying cars.
WHY I LIKE IT:
The author saw my review of Arab Arab All Year Long! and let me know that this book also had Islamic representation, and that I should check it out. I love that there are Islamic phrases (inshaAllah, salam), a possible hijab on Sokar, connections to Moors of Spain, and Arab culture. Part of me doesn’t love the love interest, crush thread, but it is between a land octopus and a butterfly and there is only a kiss on the cheek, so, I’m not sure it is that big of a deal. I love that environmental concerns, discrimination and activism are the heart of the story, yet somehow it doesn’t read preachy.
The similarities of words, foods, and my favorite throwing of a chancla/throwing of a shabashib are all amazing for readers of all backgrounds to see and be made aware of. I love the teamwork, altruism, and compassion that so many of the characters show, while not sacrificing the humor and quirkiness of it all.
I was a bit concerned with the posters going up everywhere, that seems like a lot of waste and excess, in every other instance they were so mindful: making the car solar powered, reducing plastic in the ocean, etc..
Racism, discrimination, crush, kiss on the cheek, death, loss, destruction.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I don’t think this would work for a full on book club selection, but I think it would be a popular book to give to a kid to read and then chat about it with them when they finish. The book has a lot to discuss and maybe in small groups it would be a good selection. I’m hoping to get it in the library when it releases and I’ll come back and report on how it works with reluctant readers, avid readers, and in getting the kids reading, thinking, and laughing. You can pre-order yours to show support for the author by clicking HERE.