A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A few words and phrases in Spanish, some translated, most with context clues. Some folklore figures and their stories. What Dia de los Muertos celebrates and how some people observe it.
Real change is only possible when people come together in communities to lift one another up and help one another out. You can do so much more if you let people help you. They can lighten your load by carrying small parts of it for you. If you have the tools of power and privilege, use them to lift up those who don't, and be a strong ally. Don't get so caught up in life's difficulties that you don't spend time just being yourself, doing what makes you happy. Good is what you do, not who you are.
Positive Role Models
Paola, 13, is a positive Latina role model. Along with her family and friends, she models courage, perseverance, communication, and empathy. They learn to get along and work with people even if they don't like each other much. A variety of behaviors, personalities, and motivations are modeled. Villains are supernatural fantasy beings.
Most characters are Latino, and a range of skin, hair, and eye colors are described. There's a wide range of ages among important characters. A group of friends are from an LGBTQ+ support/community service group. Paola is developing romantic feelings for a queer girl.
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Violence & Scariness
Lots of scary monsters and figures from folklore. Creepy atmospheres like a cornfield filled with crows that have glowing green eyes. Violence is in the fantasy realm. Characters are frequently in peril from nightmarish monsters, and from the paralyzing effects of fear from nightmarish images. No gore, but blood from injuries is mentioned a couple of times. Pain is described briefly. Two characters die. A large battle with fantasy creatures using fantasy and real-world weapons like knives and staffs that make wounds bleed green goo. Ghost stories and mentions of folklore characters who've killed many people. A fantasy creature kicks a beloved, dog-like pet that's also a fantasy creature.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Growing romantic feelings and dynamics like blushing, holding hands, a kiss on the cheek, and hugging.
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"Damn" and "crap."
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Products & Purchases
A mention of Starbursts. Some details about the TV show She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters make an herbal tea to induce dreaming. Speculation that an adult is acting strangely because they took decongestants, and that another adult is drinking whiskey in another location.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Paola Santiago and the Sanctuary of Shadows is the third and final installment in the folklore-based Paola Santiago fantasy series by Tehlor Kay Mejia. It continues Paola and her friends' fight against evil supernatural forces. This time the villain is a legendary figure called El Cucuy, also referred to as the lord of nightmares and the lord of dread. Paralyzing fear is a prominent theme. There are lots of nightmarish monsters and creepy, spooky locations. This book stands alone pretty well, but reading the first two will give a deeper understanding of the characters, and the events in this book will have a greater impact. There's no gore, but blood is mentioned a few times, and in the fantasy realm kids fight ghost-like monsters that ooze green goo from injuries.
Is It Any Good?
This intense fantasy series finale keeps the chills and thrills coming with a strong, resourceful Latina as the main character. It stands on its own pretty well, but reading the books in order will bring a deeper understanding of the characters and the impact of the events in Paola Santiago and the Sanctuary of Shadows. Paola's now 13 and going into eighth grade. Big kids and tweens will relate to her frustration at being held back, and her desire to prove she can handle things on her own. But the story ultimately encourages seeking help and emphasizing the strength of community.
The action, spooky atmospheres, and spine-tingling fantasy-folklore creatures are all back in full force, along with many familiar characters from the first books. There's also a good amount of humor to lighten things up now and then. Characters talk about important issues like privilege, power, and choosing to do good, providing food for thought without getting in the way of the story. Characters and events come full circle in a slightly bittersweet but ultimately satisfying ending.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.