cover image Alebrijes


Donna Barba Higuera, illus. by David Álvarez. Levine Querido, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-64614-263-7

An orphaned pickpocket must inhabit the body of a hummingbird drone in Newbery Medalist Higuera’s deeply humane postapocalyptic novel set in the distant future. Since arriving in Pocatel, a walled city with a harsh climate and scant resources, 13-year-old Leandro Rivera and his nine-year-old sister Gabi endure a life of arduous physical labor and must frequently engage in petty theft to survive. As Cascabeles, the Latinx-coded descendants of workers from the San Joaquin Valley, Leandro and Gabi must at all times abide by the oppressive Pocatelan Regime’s laws—or else face banishment as well as the deadly wyrms that lurk outside the city. When Gabi is caught stealing a strawberry just before a planned escape, Leandro sacrifices himself in her place. Upon meeting his captors, though, he is offered a reprieve in the form of a task: occupy a piece of tech thought lost to time and find a missing person beyond the city’s borders. Steeped in folkloric ambience and employing delicate character work, this stellar speculative narrative explores themes of identity across circumstance, centering an adolescent without structural power working to protect family and community. Occasional b&w interiors from Álvarez enrich the narrative. Ages 10–14. Agent: Allison Remcheck, Stimola Literary. (Oct.)