Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: Viva Cisco by Patrick Shannon

This trio of children's stories centers on Cisco the Parrot and his sometimes crazy adventures. Cisco lives in Topopootl, an all animal town in a remote Mexican valley where animals dress in clothing, speak freely, and exist most happily without human influence. In the first story in the book, Cisco is the Answer Man at the local library but is unhappy in his job because it doesn't carry the fame he so desperately wants. So he decides that he will find his own fame trying to become a flamenco dancer, a professional wrestler, or set a high flying record. His friends try to dissuade him from his cockamamie ideas but he goes ahead with his escapades anyway only to learn that he needs to find his own strength. The story ends a bit abruptly, hopping immediately into the second story.

In the second story, Cicso would still like to be famous, but not for the mishaps he suffered in the first story. Instead, when it is clear that a thief has come to disturb the peace and steal from the good citizens of Topopootl, Cisco decides to become a PI and collar the criminal. After a false start and crazy accusation, highlighting his lack of impulse control, a hold-over from book one, Cisco actually buckles down to solve the crime and restore goodwill to his town.

The third story finds Cisco feeling fairly happy and enjoying the town's celebration, held every five years, of a festival which has its origins shrouded in the mists of the past. Curious about the history behind this, Cisco finds himself charged with a dangerous journey to bring back the story for all of Topopootl to hear. So he and his friends embark on a dangerous journey that takes them into human territory and ultimately explains the reasons behind the Celebration of the Flowers. This story is longer than the previous two and has more meat to it although with a tad less humor than the others.

The three stories together are cute but the style and tone of writing seems to change with the third story. The subject matter is probably more likely to interest early middle grade readers who might not be able to tackle the vocabulary and the length of the book over all. So the book straddles, a bit uncomfortably, the divide between two different reading audiences. Cisco the Parrot is a bit of a clown and that goofiness should help keep younger readers' attention, even if they are listening to the story rather than reading it independently. I might try handing this off to the early elementary kid who reads beyond his grade level and for whom we have been having a hard time finding appropriate reading material. Could be right up his alley (the brief whiff of potty humor in the final story undoubtedly will entertain him if he holds on that far).

Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of the book.


  1. Great review, and thanks for picking me as a winner for Lonely Hearts Clubs!

  2. My daughter and I read this together last year. She was 9 and it enjoyed it. I remember almost wishing it were three separate books though, so I could have a break between stories.


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