Niño Wrestles the World

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Niño Wrestles the World Book Poster Image
Boy plays Mexican wrestler in exuberant bilingual tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Introduction to Mexican wrestling sport lucha libre. Spanish vocabulary woven through: niño, cabeza, el extraterrestre, la momia, luchadores, mis hijos, las hermanitas, etc. Also Spanish words for action sounds.

Positive Messages

It's fun to learn about and celebrate different cultures. Languages are fun to learn, use, and mix. Kids from various cultures play in similar ways and use their imaginations. Younger siblings can be annoying but are fun to play with, and you can figure out ways to play together, despite age differences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Niño's an imaginative, playful, fun boy. He's resourceful in using the toys he has at hand to defeat a succession of imagined opponents. He's nice to his younger sisters and figures out ways to play with them even though they're little.

Violence & Scariness

Niño's a wrestler, so he attacks his opponents, but they're all imaginary monster-like creatures, and the fighting is mild, playful, and resourceful, for instance tickling, and dropping marbles on an opponent.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Niño Wrestles the World, by Caldecott Honor book author-illustrator Yuyi Morales (Viva Frida), plays on the popular and very theatrical Mexican professional wrestling sport lucha libre in which the wrestlers wear colorful masks. Here, a young boy playing with his toys puts on his own mask and imagines he's wrestling and defeating a succession of wily opponents based on mythical characters. Because of the mask and fantasy element, the book has a superhero feel. Though the main text is English, it's threaded through with lots of Spanish words and phrases, mostly clear to English speakers from the text and context. A small note at the end explains lucha libre to the uninitiated. This book's really fun for active, imaginative kids of any culture.

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What's the story?

NIÑO WRESTLES THE WORLD begins with a young boy, Niño, playing with his toys. When he hears his name called by the wrestling announcer, he dons his lucha libre mask and strips down to his baggy underwear, ready for his first match, against La Momia de Guanajuato (The Guanajuato Mummy), whom he defeats using the Tickle Tackle. Each match is announced by the narrator/announcer: In Niño vs. Cabeza Olmec (Olmec Head) he defeats his opponent with a Puzzle Muzzle move; in Niño vs. La Llorona (Weeping Woman) he triumphs using dolls. He goes on to defeat El Extraterrestre (The Alien) with marbles and El Chamuco (Devil) with his scooter. When his Las Hermanitas, his two baby sisters, wake up from their nap, they tackle, tickle, and bite him. "How is Niño going to win this time? Niño's best move ever: If you can't defeat them… join them!"

Is it any good?

This action-packed story about lucha libre celebrates the colorful and theatrical Mexican sport in a fun, imaginative, kid-friendly way, while incorporating Spanish language. Authorillustrator Yuyi Morales has an exuberant style that communicates warmth and humor. When Niño strips down to his tighty whities to play luchador (wrestler), his underpants are humorously baggy, and his wrestling moves incorporate common toys like marbles, scooters, and puzzle pieces.

Niño Wrestles the World is narrated as if an announcer's broadcasting the wrestling matches. Morales works in lots of Spanish so the book's a natural for both Spanish-speaking families and learners. The names of Niño's opponents are all translated, and when Niño looks at the clock and realizes his sisters are about to get up from a nap, he cries "¡Recórcholis!" instead of "Yikes!" The mask, villain opponents, and many action words (ZOK! SLISH!) give the book the fun feel of a superhero romp. But Niño's also loving and kind to his baby sisters. A short note at the end provides information about lucha libre.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Spanish vocabulary woven into Niño Wrestles the World. Can you figure out what the words mean from context? Are there places in the book that explain the meaning?

  • At the front and back of the book the author-illustrator has drawn small cards with information on each of the players. Do you have any sports cards like these? For which sport? What kind of information do they include?

  • How does Niño use play and toys to defeat his opponents? Can you find the toys pictured at the beginning of the book?

Book details

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For kids who love Latino stories and bilingual books

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