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, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Chico Bustamante is a perfect hero for witty readers who have outgrown Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books. He and his crew—which includes a faithful dog, a prissy New York transplant called Bucky, and a sycophant whose physical features give him the obvious moniker Pig Boy—take on the evil, chicken-obsessed local sheriff in a series of adventures, such as Chico speed racing through oil pipelines and leaving the county to find a rabbi to “make him a man” through a bar mitzvah. Delicately hued panels pop with high-octane go-karts and oversize fowl, reporters with big hair, and boy-built constructions that are given superpowers courtesy of big, bad Texas weather. Subplots veer from hilarious arguments about vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice to sweetly authentic father-son bonds. This book gives a fun, intelligent, wildly imaginative kick in the pantalones to the whole genre of Wild West tall tales. Adults who like irreverent humor will want to share the laughs, so be sure to stock enough copies for both age groups. Grades 6-9. --Francisca GoldsmithSee all Editorial Reviews