Pantalones, TX: Don't Chicken Out

illus. by author. 120p. Archaia. 2013. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-936393-90-9.
Gr 5 Up—This odd duck of a story takes a while to build steam, yet eventually manages to endear its unique characters to readers in time for a sweet and satisfying ending. Chico Bustamante has visions of being a folk hero in his hometown of Pantalones, Texas, by making a name for himself with his stunts and swagger. Unfortunately, the town sheriff (and schoolteacher and mayor)-whose squad car doubles as a chicken shack-has other plans for him. The two rivals' delicate balance of power is upset when the sheriff unveils a giant chicken during his "Steak of the Union" address. He determines that this chicken will win a blue ribbon for Pantalones at the Texas Poultrystock Rodeo & Cookoff. Chico sees his chance at immortality and issues a challenge: he will ride the giant chicken for nine whole seconds, or the chicken will get to eat him. The sheriff sees the opportunity to rid himself of the sole challenge to his absolute power and accepts. Chico's training takes him to The Devastator, a mechanical bull possessed with the spirit of a "mad Mayan bull from the jungles of old Mejico," and then to the neighboring Gengo County, where he is accused of being a spy. The high jinks that ultimately ensue leave readers no time to get bored. Mercado's graphic novel definitely has niche appeal, and it fills that niche charmingly.—J. M. Poole, Webster Public Library, NY

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