I realize that any of the books I’ve shared can be enjoyed by all children however sometimes you come across an author who seems to be speaking primarily to boys. Adam Rubin is, to me, such an author. He’s written several picture books, including Secret Pizza Party, Robo-Sauce, High Five and the Those Darn Squirrels series. But the books that interested my son the most are Dragons Love Tacos, Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel and El Chupacabras.
Dragons Love Tacos was released in 2012 but we discovered it when my son was about 5 years old. He really loved the plot of a boy who is friends with dragons. The boy was planning a party for all of his fantastical friends where he would serve the universally enjoyed meal of tacos. He had planned every last detail to delight his guests, paying special attention to the fact that dragons HATE spicy salsa.
But moments before the party is to begin, he takes a closer look at the so-called mild salsa and sees that the small print on the jar states that the recipe includes… spicy jalapeno peppers! He tries in vain to hide every last drop of the forbidden sauce but alas, one by one, the dragons ingest the salsa and begin to breathe fire all over the house!
In true ‘get it done’ fashion, the boy and the dragons band together to rebuilt the torched house. Do they do it because they feel bad, or because they’re good guys? Or do they do it because they’re being paid in tacos? My bet is on the tacos.
In the follow-up, Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel, the boy learns that his dragon friends are absolutely devastated by a worldwide taco shortage. I have say, I’m with the dragons on this one. Such a disaster would wreck my world, too!
It just so happens that the boy has a time machine in his garage (as one does) and the gang decides to use it to return to the past in order to plant tacos, thus growing taco trees (can we make this a thing?) to ensure that there is no shortage in the present day. Sounds like a solid plan, right?
But no matter what point in time they travel back to, the dragons always end up getting their claws on a taco with spicy salsa. Just when you think the coast is clear… crunch, crunch, crunch and then comes the fire breathing. Finally, the boy is able to secure one single, untainted taco which he successfully plants, thereby growing taco trees for all who love them. Which is everyone because as the book concludes, ‘Heck, everyone loves tacos’.
In a different, but equally enjoyable vein, we have El Chupacabras. Written in a flowing style that integrates both English and Spanish in a way I’ve never seen before, this book tells the story of young girl named Carla who lives on a goat farm with her father Hector. Carla and Hector take excellent care of their goats and they’re all fat and happy.
One night, Carla and Hector hear a mysterious noise that they attribute to each other. When they wake in the morning, they find most of their goats hiding high up in a tree… but one is missing! Carla rides away on her bike to search for the goat and when she finds him, he’s as flat as a pancake. Hector cries out, ‘El Chupacabras!’ or ‘The Goat Sucker!’
Legend says that The Goat Sucker is a terrifying beast but in reality, he’s a tiny, refined gentleman who occasionally sucks the insides out of goats. Sounds gross but the book never shows anything graphic, just some flattened goats with bewildered eyes.
What follows is Hector and Carla’s quest to protect their goats against El Chupacabra through the use of magic dust given to them by a new friend. As often happens when magic is involved, things go awry and pure ingenuity must be employed to save the day.
Each of these books is an easy read that can be enjoyed together or as an independent reader, though bilingual readers may have an easier time reading El Chupacabras alone. If your boy appreciates the silly side of life, he’ll love the world of Adam Rubin and his offbeat characters and settings.