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Alebrijes

por Donna Barba Higuera

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614431,905 (4)2
Science fiction. Dystopian. This is the story as it was told to me by Leandro the Mighty. For 400 years, Earth has been a barren wasteland. The few humans that survive scrape together an existence in the cruel city of Pocatel, or go it alone in the wilderness beyond, filled with wandering spirits and wyrms. They don't last long. 13 year-old pickpocket Leandro and his sister Gabi do what they can to forge a life in Pocatel. The city does not take kindly to Cascabel like them, the descendants of those who worked the San Joaquin Valley for generations. When Gabi is caught stealing precious fruit from the Pocatelan elite, Leando takes the fall. But his exile proves more than he ever could have imagined, far from a simple banishment, his consciousness is placed inside an ancient drone and left to fend on its own. But beyond the walls of Pocatel lie other alebrijes like Leandro who seek for a better world as well as mutant monsters, wasteland pirates, a hidden oasis, and the truth. 10 yrs+… (mais)
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Four hundred years ago, humanity was nearly wiped out. A few groups survived by hiding deep underground. Leandro's people, the Cascabeles, were one of those groups. They spent a long time as foragers in the wilderness before discovering another group of survivors in the settlement of Pocatel. Now, the Cascabeles are second-class citizens who live in tent-like dwellings ("pocks") and work in the potato fields. When Leandro's guardian dies, he plans that he and his little sister Gabi will make a run for the wilderness, but the plan goes horribly wrong. Instead, Leandro is caught and sentenced to exile. The physician places his consciousness inside a hummingbird drone that was once used to pollinate crops and sends him out to find other exiled children, including her daughter. She promises that if Leandro can bring her daughter back, she will help him and his sister escape. Of course, there is more at stake than just Leandro and Gabi's lives -- the Pocatelan government has more sinister intentions...

If that seems like a long and complicated summary, that's because there is a lot going on in the plot of this post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi novel for kids. I enjoyed it a great deal, though it kept me dashing for Google Translate because of the Spanish words and phrases embedded in the dialogue. Kid readers who have some knowledge of Spanish would make better work of it than I did! I also found the science a little hand-wavy; I'm still not sure how and why the "Sparks" worked the way they did, and a major plot point hinged on an overheard conversation. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this book -- while I was reading it, I was mostly immersed. It's not the most pacey of books, but makes up for that with enough world-building to be able to paint a mental image of the settings and characters. And the epilogue delicately places this book in the same world as The Last Cuentista, which I loved. Worth a read if the description intrigues you! ( )
  foggidawn | Feb 22, 2024 |
Leandro Rivera and his little sister Gabi are Cascabeles who live in the Pox, and spend their days digging for potatoes, most of which go to feed Pocatelans, who live in stone houses. This unequal society is headed for a fall: when Leandro is exiled (for admitting to a theft committed by Gabi), instead of being sent over the bridge to certain death, his consciousness is placed into a metal drone shaped like a hummingbird. Colibrí Leandro finds others in the fabled La Cuna (the cradle) and learns more about Pocatel and its leadership. He heads back to rescue Gabi and as many others as he can, along with Selah, daughter of the Physician and the Imperator.

Similar in ways to The Hunger Games (a deeply unequal society upended by a youth who sacrifices for a younger sibling) and The Girl Who Drank the Moon (lying leadership that rules by fear), Alebrijes also nods, in its epilogue, to Higuera's previous book, The Last Cuentista ("This is the story as it was told to me by Leandro the Mighty...").

See also: The Last Beekeeper by Pablo Cartaya

Quotes

"The letters make sounds, the sounds make words, the words help us learn something we didn't know before." (Mama, 77)

"Fear is healthy....If our people are united in fear of something bigger, we will not fear one another. We will not turn on one another." (Director of Truth, 115)

"Disagreement is a small step from opposition. Opposition is a small step from rebellion, which is one small step from the end of our society." (the Imperator, 124)

"The smallest flap of wings can change the course of history." (engraved on the colibri, 137)

Am I still a person?
I still have my thoughts, so am I still me? (163)

But this is not how I dreamed freedom would feel. The weight of what I have to do, and what's at risk if I don't, makes it feel more like a prison. (173)

Selah wants the truth so badly she will fight until she gets it. (236)

"It is what you accomplish in the form you've been given that makes you powerful." (Tortoise, 247)

I'm questioning all that I thought to be true. (267)

How much we've been tricked. How the stories we are told have the power to deceive and damage. (276)

..,,we get to choose who we become in the end. (289)

"I think that legends can be magical and give us hope, but the stories we are told can also have the power to kill that hope just as easily." (289)

"While our lies become legends, they have made your legends lies." (Selah, 322)

"I have spent my whole life not helping those I should have. For what remains of it, I must stay to pay my penance Confession and sorrow are insufficient." (Selah's mom Dolores, 375) ( )
1 vote JennyArch | Dec 31, 2023 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I love the idea of being able to transfer ones consciousness into a mechanical animal. This was an interesting concept and I would love to see a follow-up story about what happens after they leave Pocatel.

The narrator did a good job narrating the story and I loved listening to them pronounce the Spanish words. ( )
  Shauna_Morrison | Dec 6, 2023 |
children's middlegrade fiction - orphaned Leandro protects his little sister but when he takes the blame for her theft his punishment reveals the real dangers in his dystopian world. Takes place in a futuristic society on what used to be Earth where the brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking descendants of San Joaquin farm laborers are made to pick increasingly blighted potatoes and relegated to a tent city in the slums of a walled town beset by fearsome wyrms that prevent escape.

I liked the world building a lot but found the story very slow to start -- alebrijes ("magical animals" in this case referring to advanced technical robot creatures leftover from the prior civilization's collapse) don't appear until halfway through the book. If you can keep reading that far, it's worth it, but not sure how long a kid taken in by the spooky cover (it's more of a slow-paced adventure than a horror story) will really last. ( )
  reader1009 | Oct 17, 2023 |
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Science fiction. Dystopian. This is the story as it was told to me by Leandro the Mighty. For 400 years, Earth has been a barren wasteland. The few humans that survive scrape together an existence in the cruel city of Pocatel, or go it alone in the wilderness beyond, filled with wandering spirits and wyrms. They don't last long. 13 year-old pickpocket Leandro and his sister Gabi do what they can to forge a life in Pocatel. The city does not take kindly to Cascabel like them, the descendants of those who worked the San Joaquin Valley for generations. When Gabi is caught stealing precious fruit from the Pocatelan elite, Leando takes the fall. But his exile proves more than he ever could have imagined, far from a simple banishment, his consciousness is placed inside an ancient drone and left to fend on its own. But beyond the walls of Pocatel lie other alebrijes like Leandro who seek for a better world as well as mutant monsters, wasteland pirates, a hidden oasis, and the truth. 10 yrs+

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