Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller
Written and Illustrated by Xavier Garza
Cinco Puntos • 2011 • 207 pages
Eleven-year-old Max lives in Rio Grande City, on the Texas-Mexico border, and inhales lucha libre, the Mexican form of professional wrestling. His greatest hero is the Guardian Angel, el Ángel de la Guarda, one of the longest-lived technicos, the good guys who are always at war with the rudos, the bad guys like Vampire Velasquez, Dog-Man Aguayo and even the female Masked Damsel.
No matter how much Max’s mother scorns wrestlers—and the B-grade movies they star in—Max, his father, younger brother and Uncle Lalo, all love everything about that world: the masks and hidden identities, the good vs. evil nature of the bouts, and the wrestlers’ skills. You can imagine Max’s surprise and his father’s astonishment when a chance encounter at a wrestling match leads them to discover that the famed Guardian Angel is Max’s mother’s long-lost uncle Rodolfo, thought to have died decades before.
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As Rodolfo begins to get reacquainted with his family and Uncle Lalo gets married, the past and present intertwine, and Lalo—who is built much like Uncle Rodolfo—finds himself forced to become a wrestler in order to settle a score with his ex-girlfriend, the former Masked Damsel, in a tag-team match that also includes the Guardian Angel.
Garza’s light-hearted tone, his depiction of family solidarity, and hardly believable plot, work well together to create an appealing story that fans of lucha libre will especially enjoy. This 2012 Pura Belpre Honor winner, which was also named a 2012 ALA notable book, includes a smooth-flowing Spanish translation.
—Reviewed by Coop Renner, retired librarian: El Paso Independent School District