Maximilian: The Mystery of the Guardian Angel

Eleven-year-old Margarito, a big fan of the form of wrestling known as lucha libre, begins to suspect that he has a close connection with his favorite luchador, El Angel de La Guardia, the Guardian Angel.

One thought on “Maximilian: The Mystery of the Guardian Angel

  1. Pritchard & Wilson says:

    Gail’s Take
    My first encounter with Lucha Libre was, in fact, with Nacho Libre; that campy Jared Hess movie, starring Jack Black. It was the summer of 1996 and I was in Tucson teaching a class. I went to see it a local movie theatre filled to capacity with adolescents. I swear—I was the only adult at the matinee. Because it’s my nature, after the movie, I had to find out as much as I could about Lucha Libre. I’ll admit, I was a pseudo wrestling fan. When my youngest was in about 5th grade, he talked me into taking him and a slew of his friends to a local grill for pay-per-view wrestling marathons. We would get there early to get front and center of the big screen, order fried mushrooms, fried okra, fried pickles (later in Alabama, we would be introduced to fried macaroni, fried corn, AND fried Oreos—I kid you not), and we would munch our way through the event. But all of those Saturdays did not prepare me for the colorfully masked fighters of Lucha Libre. Sorry WWF, the luchadores have it all over your wrestlers!
    In this bilingual novel, Garza introduces the reader to Max, a huge fan of the Guardian Angel, a luchador and actor in Mexico. I’m a huge fan of foreshadowing and Garza drops clues all along the way. On the second page, Max makes a nonchalant comment that his Uncle Lalo is as big as his hero, “In fact, the physical similarities between my uncle and the Guardian Angel are uncanny. He has the same square chin and massive arms. He even shares the Guardian’s huge chest,” (p.6); but that’s as far as Max goes with the thought, while the reader is already predicting. Then, when Max, his little brother, his father, and his uncle go to see the Guardian Angel, they have a chance meeting. Max climbs up on the guard rail to get a better view of the Guardian Angel’s entrance; he gets pushed off and flips onto the runway, where the Guardian Angel picks him up. As he hands Max off to Max’s father, “the Guardian Angel turns and sees my tío Lalo. There’s a strange look in the eyes behind the mask—as if he recognizes Lalo!” (p.72). Clearly, there is a mysterious connection between the Guardian Angel and Max’s family.
    After the match, where the Guardian Angel and his tag-team partner the Mayan Prince, handily tromp el Cavernario and Dog-Man Aguayo, Max and his family are invited backstage. Upon their entrance, the Guardian Angel peppers them with questions, “Is Braulia with you all? Is she in town too?… Her father’s name was Antonio, right?…. Antonio has a sister named Lydia and a brother named Rodolfo? (pp. 79-80). He then reveals that he is Rodolfo, the brother everyone thought had died forty years before. Of course, everyone is stunned, particularly Max—his great uncle Rodolfo is the Guardian Angel! On the other hand, Braulia says, “You look ridiculous!… A grown man dressed in tights!” (p. 83). Through the next few days, Rodolfo’s story unfolds, how he had been stabbed, found by a retired luchador who helped him recovered, trained as a luchador, and then began his career as the Guardian Angel.
    Lalo’s wedding arrives—not without its problems. Lalo’s former girlfriend, Sonia Escobedo is a retired luchadora and very jealous. She did not take kindly to their break up after she “put Lalo’s own cousin Belinda in the hospital with a cracked jawbone because of an innocent little kiss on the cheek that Belinda gave Lalo on his birthday” (p. 12). Just as the ceremony ends, Lalo’s truck crashes through the church without a driver, but inside is the mask of La Dama Enmascarada! The Guardian Angel comes to the rescue with a plan for raising funds to repair the church, getting Sonia to leave Lalo and his new wife alone, a new career for Lalo, and a way for him to retire.
    Garza has written a wonderful little read that flows so smoothly, I felt like I was part of the story. I could hear the conversations, I could see the colorful costumes of the luchadores, and I could see the events unfolding. It’s no surprise to me Maximilian was a Pura Belpre Medal Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book in 2012; and it won’t be a surprise for you either, after you read this romp through the ropes of lucha libre!

    Melissa’s Take
    While I am not a horse person, I am most definitely not a wrestling fan-here, in Mexico, or anywhere else. I have never liked masks. In fact I am still afraid of clowns and even more petrified of the characters wandering around menacingly at Disneyworld. I would not do well at a Lucha Libre event. I did not do much better with Maximilian.
    I so much wanted to enjoy this text. When I worked at University of Texas at San Antonio Xavier Garza came to the reading lab and gave a rousing read and discussion. He is a lovely man, down to earth, smart, and just kind of cool. The children in the audience really enjoyed the text he shared and they may enjoy this one as well. My criticism of this story isn’t the enjoyment factor, but rather what this text says or does not say.
    First off, this is a bilingual novel, yet the front and back covers are in English only. The layout of the text is English on the left and Spanish on the right. These features signal to me that Spanish is not as important as English (we read left to right-the English is what is positioned first) and the book is being marketed to English speakers, otherwise why wouldn’t the cover be bilingual as well?
    I found the characterizations to be very stereotypical. The mother is the typical bitch of the house, the dad is sweet but hapless, and the all-brawn-no-brains tio marries the “good girl” sacrificing his safety by angering the jealous, thug-like bad girl, Sonia. Also, this is a novel that to me plays in to ethnic stereotypes with the hot-blooded women, the macho men, and the plot unfolding like a soap opera.
    There is good news however. The pro-wrestling world is realistically portrayed as fake but extremely athletic. This should discourage any would be luchadors from trying anything dangerous. Of course wearing the masks is safe, albeit terrifying!

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