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Review: Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper

Lowriders in Space
By Cathy Camper
Illustrated by Raul the Third

Chronicle Books

ISBN: 9781452121550
Grades 3-6
Out November 4, 2014

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

For a species that is fascinated with cars, you don’t actually see all that many in the non-informational side of children’s literature. Trucks, sure, but cars? Try to think of a few. Enter graphic novel Lowriders in Space – an ode to the cult of “low and slow” that feels like a breath of fresh air (mixed with, *sniff* *sniff*, a hint of exhaust fumes) for a number of reasons. Chances are, you haven’t read a book quite like it.

Elrito Malaria, Flapjack Octopus, and Lupe Impala liked working with cars. That was their job.

But what the friends dream about is working on cars in a shop all their own. Each member of the crew has a specialty.  Elrito, a mosquito, does detailed paint jobs, Flapjack’s polishing skills make cars dazzle, and Lupe is the mechanic. The upcoming Universal Car Competition promises a carload of cash for the winner and the trio see the loot as their ticket to start their own garage. Elrito spots an old clunker and they get to work, using all their resources (and an unexpected trip into outer space) to create a lowrider that will take the judges’ breath away.

There’s much to be admired in the doggedness of these characters. Childhood is one big experience in turning nothing into something and kids will relate to how Lupe, Flapjack, and Elrito work to make their car beautiful. While the friends experience some close calls along the way, the overall mood is a jovial one. Mexican-American slang is used throughout the book, with a What Does It Mean? section in the back matter for the uninitiated.

The full-color illustrations play a huge role in making this book stand out. Really, I’ve never seen anything like it in a book for kids. Raul the Third (illustrator name of the year) channels his inner notebook scribbler, with art that owes much to the Bic Round Stic. Be sure to check out the preview link at the bottom of this post to see what I’m talking about.

A fantastic voyage (yes, that’s a Coolio reference) for the ages. Your graphic novel section needs this.

Review copy from the publisher

Read a 23 page preview of Lowriders in Space on Scribd.

Watch a book trailer for Lowriders in Space:

Also reviewed by Shelf-Employed, Sense and Sensibility and Stories.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.