cover image Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo

Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo

Adrianna Cuevas. HarperCollins, $18.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-0632-8549-1

In this uplifting tale by Cuevas (The Ghosts of Rancho Espanto), a Cuban American 12-year-old must reckon with the mystical consequences of breaking tradition. Maricel Yanet Feijoo’s family is proud of its Cuban identity and customs. Sometimes, though, their “Peak Cubanity” embarrasses Mari, and a white classmate’s frequent racist remarks add to her discomfort. When she shuns her family’s annual New Year’s Eve burning of an effigy to expel bad luck, her refusal to participate awakens a powerful ghostly entity called El Cocodrilo. Realizing that feeding off Mari’s negative emotions boosts his power, El Cocodrilo engages in disruptive mischief—possessing Mari’s belongings and sabotaging her school pursuits—that causes her public humiliation. After El Cocodrilo begins haunting her bestie, Mari must rely on her family, friends, and ancestors to expel the spirit. El Cocodrilo’s schemes include humor-laced, unsettling situations starring black lizards and flooded backpacks that add levity to this meditative look at the literalization of how rejecting one’s identity can have detrimental ramifications. Strong tween friendships, tight-knit familial bonds, and an emphasis on taking pride in one’s roots round out this eerie supernatural adventure. An end note discusses Latin American New Year’s celebrations. Ages 8–12. Agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (Oct.)