Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows Book Poster Image
Kids fight folklore beings in adventure with lots of chills.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of Spanish vocabulary, some is translated but mostly context clues are given. Lots of folklore from all over Latin America, Spain, and Portugal featuring mythical creatures and supernatural beings, along with some information about the origins and most-told stories for many. A glossary in the back provides a few more details for each.

Positive Messages

You may be afraid that your changing body and emotions are turning you into something different and weird, but in the end those changes are what make you you. You can't run away from yourself. Accepting yourself for who and what you truly are makes you powerful and free from worrying about what others think.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlie's a good role model for bravery and for using his vast knowledge of folklore to solve problems and defeat the bad guys. He makes some mistakes but ultimately learns to embrace his strange, new powers and accept himself as he is, which makes him a better friend. Violet is smart, driven, brave, stands up to bullies, works at building physical and mental talents and skills, especially those of an investigative reporter. Lots of strong, positive representations of Latino people, folklore, and culture.


Charlie and Violet are often in danger of injury or death from scary, creepy, supernatural and mythical beings from a wide range of folklore traditions. Lots of dark, creepy settings. Blood's mentioned a few times but not described in detail; pain is described with some detail. Charlie and one of his friends are bullied at school with shoving, theft, punching in the stomach, locking in a locker, slamming against walls, and racist verbal hostility. Lots of other fights and confrontations involve fantasy creatures and magical abilities.


Charlie's had a crush on Violet for a few years and occasionally mentions romantic feelings. They hug a few times. Mention that eighth graders making out in the hallways is a common sight at school.


"Jackass," "butt," "nalgas" (buttocks), and "damn." A bully uses verbal hostility and racism as in how people dress "where you're really from."


A few specific movies, video games, fashion, and food products specifically mentioned to establish character or location. Violet, who's 12, quotes from and takes for granted that Charlie has seen the movie Taken. Charlie, also 12, says he's seen it.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The kids eat tequila worms that haven't yet been soaked in tequila. Speculation that the bully has taken performance-enhancing drugs. Grandpa's tobacco smoke mentioned in a negative context.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ryan Calejo's Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows is a fantasy-adventure for tweens that draws heavily on folklore from many Spanish-speaking countries around the world. Charlie's parents are missing so dealing with parental loss is a theme, along with remembering a past destructive house fire and going back to what remains. Lots of positive Latino role models and representations in the characters and in the frequent use of Spanish words and phrases. Lots of peril and fights with fantasy and supernatural beings from folklore, and lots of dark, creepy locations, too. Except for a school bully, all other violence is in the realm of fantasy, but blood's mentioned a few times and pain is described. Youngest readers may need help clarifying the calaca's argument about why folklore and its creatures are real. Rare strong language includes "jackass" and "damn." Lots of gross-out moments like eating worms, messing your pants, and a slobbery, tentacled tongue add tween appeal. Mild feelings of romantic interest and attraction and a couple of hugs. Explores themes about the links between culture and folklore, as well as about accepting yourself and your body as it changes and becomes something weird and new.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byemmastein February 13, 2019

Great kids book!

Bought this book for my school age child but also read it and truly enjoyed! I mostly enjoyed how all the Hispanic myths were woven into the story and came to... Continue reading
Adult Written byguerra123 February 13, 2019

Really enjoyed learning about Hispanic myths and legends.

Bought the book for my son who is 10 years old for his birthday. He read it in a week. He really enjoyed the Hispanic myths and legends. He even wants to d... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 9, 2021

A great book for everyone!

Amazing book! Fantasy lovers must read this! Great messages and models. Would recommend it to everyone!
Kid, 11 years old February 5, 2019

Great Book!

This book is a great read and very interesting- and I haven't even finished Chapter 11!

What's the story?

CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ & THE LEAGUE OF SHADOWS can barely stay a step ahead of the evil forces that want to destroy the barrier between our world and the underworld. Really, all Charlie wants is to find his parents who disappeared suddenly on the same afternoon their house burned down, and to understand the strange things that are happening to his body like growing horns, feathers, and one arm turning into a lobster claw. But each new clue to what's going on only brings another narrow escape from dark, mythical creatures straight out of his grandmother's folk tales. Can he and his new friend (and secret crush) Violet find Queen Joanna and the answers they need before the forces of darkness close in?

Is it any good?

Debut novelist Ryan Calejo brings a refreshing Latino twist to a middle-grade fantasy adventure. And there's lots of appeal for fans of Percy Jackson-type excitement. Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows move the story along from one close call to the next, until the satisfying ending that leaves the door open for further adventures.

Readers will learn a lot about folklore from both the Old and New Worlds, and tweens will relate to Charlie as he learns to accept himself and his body, and to appreciate his strange, new powers. The structure of the plot gets pretty repetitive, but younger readers likely won't mind as each step along the way features a creepily fascinating figure from ancient folk tales. Dark atmospheres, frequent peril, rare strong language, and many undead or underworld fantasy creatures make it best for tweens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the positive representations in Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows. Why is it important to read books, watch movies and TV, or play games with diverse characters?

  • What do you think about the author's use of Spanish words and phrases? If you don't speak Spanish, were you able to figure out the meanings? Does it interupt or enhance the story to use both languages?

  • What's your favorite myth or story from folklore? Go to the library or try an online search to find lots more, from just about everywhere in the world.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy tales and Latino stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate