Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash! (Zapato Power #4)
Jacqueline Jules, author
Miguel Benitez, illustrator
Albert Whitman and Co.

I am definitely going to check out the Zapato Power books 1-3! This is my first introduction to funny little Freddie and his amazing shoes (zapatos). The first Freddie Ramos book apparently won a Cybil award for Early Readers in 2010 (the Cybils are like the big-time ALA awards only given by bloggers!), but I missed meeting little Freddie until now.

What I like about Freddie Ramos and his crazy shoes are (1) an approachable early reader/chapter book centered around a boy that (2) doesn’t depend on bathroom humor and (3) features a nonwhite main character that is still (4) very approachable and “relatable” to a wide audience. The illustrations aren’t my favorite style, but they work nicely nonetheless. The graphic novel feel will no doubt appeal to the kids who pick up this series. I like that Benitez makes Freddie look like any kid–no real identifying markers as to ethnicity or economic state. The text lets the reader know enough of Freddie’s background for the story to make sense (single parent home, words like “zapato”), but anyone, anywhere in the U.S. can probably relate to Freddie. Freddie is still definitely Hispanic (or, at the very least, conversant in Spanish); it’s wonderful to have a book like this with a main character like Freddie on the early reader scene, especially since it doesn’t feel like Freddie’s heritage is the “point.” It’s just one more facet of who Freddie is.

Freddie is busy solving “crimes” and figuring out mysteries (such as, who left the big globs of bubblegum on the sidewalk and who “stole” his backpack); his shoes can make him as fast as a superhero–a responsibility Freddie takes very seriously. His adventures are a perfect fit for the age range/reading level range for this book (my bet is 1st-3rd grade or so, give or take a year). Younger kids will probably relate better than those at the older end of the range.

This book comes out this month! Keep an eye out for it; it may take a little while before it appears on library shelves, but you can always ask for it.

ARC from netgalley; cover image from Albert Whitman