Lucha Libre

By Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Papá Lupe and grandson Carlitos have just arrived at the arena in Mexico City to watch the lucha libre (Mexican-style wrestling) match, but Tío Vicente, who was supposed to be there too, hasn’t shown up. Carlitos picks out a souvenir mask and decides to root for The Man in the Silver Mask, who, the vendor assures him, is “the greatest luchador of all time!” As three masked rudos (bad guys) enter the ring, Papá Lupe explains why the crowd erupts in derision, and when the trio of técnicos follows, Carlitos recognizes his newfound hero in the silver boots, tights, and mask. Tío Vicente shows up after the match, and, although Carlitos’ uncle is in fact the flashy wrestler who vanquished the rudos, to his nephew’s delight. Carlitos’ story, told in English and Spanish on facing pages, is a completely dispensable framework for the real appeal of the brawny comix-like paintings in vivid Mexican folkloric colors of hyper-muscular wrestlers in their superhero (and supervillain) garb and the cogent explanations of arena traditions and ritualized fighting style. A lengthy endnote offers background on lucha libre history, extending the interest of this title to readers who are too sophisticated to enjoy the paper-thin family story. Children familiar with the sport will welcome the vibrant visual paean, while fans of wrestling, comic-book superheroes, and all things pugilistic will wonder where lucha libre has been all their lives.