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Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel

Booklist
The plot unfolds, in both English and Spanish, as Maximilian comes face-to-face with El Àngel, and what develops is a rapid sequence of holds and high-flying adventures. Garza—an author, artist, and storyteller—paints larger-than-life portraits of the luchadores and offers readers authentic insights into the exciting world of lucha libre...Bold, black-and-white comic-style art opens each chapter and gives readers a sense of what the luchadores look like. With its quick pace, humor, and endearing characters, this title—like Garza’s picture book Lucha Libre (2005)—is sure to turn more kids into lucha libre fans.
- February 7, 2012 
The Monitor
“Garza’s masterful illustrations and the many well-written action scenes make this a must-read for middle-grade boys.”
Last week the Pura Belpré Medal (named for the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library) was officially awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). This award is given annually to a Latino/a writer and illustrator whose work best reflects the Latino experience in a young adult or children’s literature. One of the books recognized by the ALSC was Xavier Garza’s Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel, a bilingual Lucha Libre thriller. Garza, originally from Rio Grande City, is an artist, teacher and storyteller whose many works brilliantly capture the intersection of mythic and everyday along the border.
Maximilian is a 12-year-old fan of Mexican wrestling. His biggest hero is the Guardian Angel, a Santo analogue who has been wrestling and making movies for four decades. Max’s family is pure Valley: an extended network of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles whose love for one another is balanced by their often explosive personalities. The book centers on the relationship between Max and his uncle Lalo, who indulges the boy’s love of wrestling more than his mother wants. When Max finally gets to see his idol in action, a series of events unfurl that reveal the wrestler to be a member of the family (I won’t mention his identity). This revelation leads several characters to evolve in unexpected ways, and by the end the reader understands how Lucha Libre—an art form that requires wrestlers to bond and work as partners to inspire the crowd—can also bring families and communities together. Also sweetly poignant is the sub-plot about Maximilian’s crush on hazel-eyed Cecilia (whose affection he wins in a great scene). Lalo’s crazed ex-girlfriend “completa el cuadro,” as we say, leaving the reader with a rounded, warts-and-all portrait of a true-to-life family.
Garza’s masterful illustrations and the many well-written action scenes make this a must-read for middle-grade boys. The translation by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite and Carla González Campos manages perfectly to capture the breathless feel of the original. Reading the book, I was reminded of another seminal title, one that influenced Xavier Garza and many other local writers (including me): Stories That Must Not Die by Juan Sauvageau, a collection of bilingual border tales that has captured the imagination of struggling young readers throughout our state for 35 years. Fans of Garza and Sauvageau should note that NES will be re-releasing many of those stories individually with illustrations by notable Texas artists. Garza is lending his talents to the project, illustrating “The Sobbing Woman” and other popular tales.
- David Bowles, July 6, 2012  Visit Website
All Brown All Around
"Garza has done it again...a unique middle grade novel that pays homage to the Mexican tradition of masked wrestlers...We don't often see middle grade novels that are bilingual and that include male Latino protagonists. Garza and Cinco Puntos Press have really outdone themselves in hitting on all of these areas that are lacking in the world of children's books...Here's to more books like this in the near future!
- February 9, 2012 
Language Arts
Garza captures the excitement of the wrestling matches with energetically descriptive passages… This action-packed winner of a 2012 Pura Belpré Author Honor Award is sure to be a favorite.
This bilingual novel is told from the perspective of Maximilian, an 11-year-old who lives in San Antonio, Texas, and is a huge fan of Mexican wrestling. Maximilian’s favorite wrestler is the Guardian Angel and while attending one of his fights, he slips over a guardrail and has an encounter with him. He eventually discovers that the Guardian Angel is a long-lost uncle. Garza captures the excitement of the wrestling matches with energetically descriptive passages. For example, while attending one wrestling match at which the main event will be a fight between the
Guardian Angel and El Cavernario (prehistoric caveman) and “his tag team partner, the chain collar wearing Dog-Man Aguayo” (p. 58), the text reads, “The lucha libre show begins with a series of opening bouts that whet our appetites for the main event action. The most memorable match can only be described as a virtual 8.9 on the Richter scale. This is a bout of gargantuan proportions that sees the irresistible 402-pound man known as the Ton Jackson go toe-to-toe with the immovable 405-pound Big Bad Tamba. Both huge men do the impossible and take to the air as if they were featherweights” (pp. 59–60). This action-packed winner of a 2012 Pura Belpré Author Honor Award is sure to be a favorite with many students in the upper-elementary grades.
- Jonda C. McNair, September 1, 2012  Visit Website
Reading Matters
"[An] engaging bilingual novel...Garza’s writing captures the excitement of the wrestling matches."
This engaging, bilingual novel is told from the perspective of Maximilian, an 11-year-old who is a Mexican wrestling aficionado. His favorite wrestler is the Guardian Angel and while attending one of his wrestling matches, he has a chance encounter with him. Maximilian discovers that the Guardian Angel is a long lost uncle. Garza’s writing captures the excitement of the wrestling matches. While attending one wrestling match at which the main event will be a fight between the Guardian Angel and El Cavernario (prehistoric caveman) and “his tag team partner, the chain-collar wearing Dog-Man Aguayo” (p. 58), the text reads, “The lucha libre show begins with a series of opening bouts that whet our appetites for the main event action. The most memorable match can only be described as a virtual 8.9 on the Richter scale. This is a bout of gargantuan proportions that sees the irresistible 402-pound man known as the Ton Jackson go toe-to-toe with the immovable 405-pound Big Bad Tamba. Both huge men do the impossible and take to the air as if they were featherweights” (pp. 59-60). This book earned Xavier Garza a 2012 Pura Belpré Author Honor Award.
- May 9, 2013  Visit Website

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