Not a Monster
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, author
Claudia Guadalupe Martínez grew up in sunny El Paso, Texas where she learned that letters form words from reading the subtitles of old westerns with her father. She now lives with her husband and 3 children in Chicago.
Read more about Claudia.
Laura Gonzalez, illustrator
Read more about Laura.
- Coming soon!
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Deep in a murky, azul-tinged body of water, the axolotl swims under the cover of the moon.
Along a canal near an unspecified city “that was once a great empire,” an egg grows and transforms; the creature inside gains fins, gills, and a bit more before it hatches into a tadpole. Four long limbs soon sprout, and the creature’s color deepens into an inky black. It scours for food beneath “los lirios rosados” (pink water lilies), resting under a floating garden. The creature is “Not a Monster”—it’s an axolotl. Martínez devotes the first half of the book to chronicling the axolotl’s life journey—from birth to mating—in eclectic, whimsical strokes, egged on by González’s sublime, earthy artwork. It’s a tenderhearted ode to the water-based salamander. From there, the axolotl’s tale pivots to spotlight the creature’s connection to Xolotl, the Aztec god of monstrous things, said to have leapt into a lake and turned into an axolotl. “Guided by the stories their abuelos have told them,” two friends “row their chalupa morada” into the canals, spearheading cleanup efforts to remove plastic and bottles from the water. The author brilliantly positions the restoration of the endangered axolotl’s natural habitats as a kind of modern rebirth infused with hope. Spanish words pop up throughout this sly call to action, and color words are bolded; definitions are provided in a glossary.
Rejoice and rally for the axolotl! (author’s note)
Martínez introduces an amphibian exclusively found in Mexico in this inviting nonfiction picture book, and readers get to watch it grow from a single cell to an axolotl. This unusual salamander is not a monster, though it's described as an "Aztec god of monstrous things" that jumped in the water in Aztec mythology. In her artwork, González honors that mythology with Aztec motifs and pictograms tucked into the illustrations, while comprehensively depicting the axolotl's growing phases. Once the axolotl is fully grown, the story introduces two children searching for the mythological creature in the canals. Instead, they find pollution, which threatens the axolotl's habitat, but they help clean the water, eventually revealing a collection of axolotls eggs beginning to hatch. Martínez sprinkles plenty of Spanish words throughout the story, which are defined in a glossary; color terms also appear in their matching hue. The term "monster" is used gently, without instilling fear. With beautiful watercolor illustrations, this story compellingly integrates folktales and biology, as well as important facts about environmental awareness.
In the canals around Mexico City swims a creature the ancient Aztec people called the water monster. Then, the canals were a great lake with water pure and blue as the sky. The water monster grew and thrived. But now the once-blue water is murky, polluted by people. As a result, the water monster has begun to disappear. The abuelos say that when the last of the water monsters is gone, it will be the end of paradise. Weaving fact and mythology, this nonfiction picture book tracks the lifecycle of axolotls from egg to full-grown salamander. This book is written for shared reading. In the science classroom, teachers can use the book to encourage discussion about both the lifecycle of this unique salamander and related topics, such as care for the environment and pollution. An up-close read with parents or caregivers will encourage talk of the integrated Spanish words. The tight narrative and large, bright pictures fully engage readers. Once the child and adult have read the book together, the child will be itching to get hands-on and touch the full-color illustrations that accompany the story. Highly recommended for ages three to seven, this bright and beautifully illustrated book is perfect for read-alouds or story time and is truly a standout.
Page count: 32
11 x 8 1/2