cover image Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter

Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter

Zoraida Córdova. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-338-71271-1

An Ecuadorian tween from a family of former monster protectors embarks on one final mission in Córdova’s (The Way to Rio Luna) rewarding on-the-road fantasy. During “the worst summer of my whole eleven-and-a-half-year-old life,” Valentina Salazar longs to return to the Before Times—an era before school bullies, nightly homework, busy older siblings, and most importantly, the death of her beloved father. Now settled in Missing Mountain, N.Y., after a lifetime of camping and homeschooling, Valentina searches with little luck for a case that will help her family get back to normal—and back into their 1965 Ford Falcon camper. When Valentina sees video footage of a boy showcasing an egg that belongs to a rare monster—the same rare monster that killed her father—she and her elder siblings undertake a road trip to retrieve it, encountering a double-headed scorpion and large winged cats, among other creatures. With a gutsy, lionhearted protagonist (“By the way, weirdos make the world a better place!”), an inventive cryptid menagerie, and a sensitive portrayal of grief’s effect on individuals and familial dynamics as seen through young eyes, Córdova’s narrative comes aglow as it unfolds, radiating warmth, humor, and a love of the fantasy genre on each and every page. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (June)