It is not often that one finds a book that provides an action-packed, playful depiction of young boys, especially young Latino boys. Combine this with a work that is effortlessly bilingual, provides an engaging depiction of lucha libre professional wrestling, contains action-packed illustrations, and sneaks in figures from Mexican and Latin American culture, and you have the 2013 picturebook Niño Wrestles the World, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales.
Despite its minimalist plot–which consists of Niño’s daydreamed matches as a lucha libre star–this book packs a punch as an entertaining language and cultural resource in the classroom. Morales has made great use of every bit of space within the book, from the endpapers, which contain profiles of Niño’s various opponents, to the final pages, which provide a short introduction to lucha libre for the uninitiated. The pages even mimic the campy professional wrestling style through staged action shots, dramatic sound effects, and the announcer’s commentary.
I was greatly impressed by Morales’s seamless intertwining of Spanish and English, which bridges between these two languages and reinforces the value of both. Similarly, Niño Wrestles the World acts as an entertaining introduction to new topics for some students and a hilarious return to familiar themes, activities, and figures (such as a Guanajuato Mummy or La Llorona) for others. This unique book fulfills a variety of essential roles in a classroom library, all within a bare-bones, cheesy, action-packed plot.