Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter

In this escapist middle-grade fantasy, a spirited tween leads her siblings on a frolicsome and fearsome quest to protect the egg of the creature that killed their father.

After Arturo Salazar--the first Salazar to protect, not kill, the magical beasts that accidentally cross into our world--was eaten by an orü puma, his wife and children retired from saving supernatural animals. Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Valentina hates her family's new normal because they no longer spend time together. So when her monster-killing Uncle Raf embarks on a hunt to destroy an orü puma egg, Valentina persuades her brother and sister to undertake one final mission to save it. However, the stone they need to open a portal to Finisterra--the realm where they return every rescued creature--has been stolen, likely by Uncle Raf. Now, they must procure a new stone, beat Raf to the egg and unravel what he intends to do with a wondrous land of mythical monsters.

Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova (Incendiary; Labyrinth Lost) is a wholesome fantasy adventure. Young readers should easily identify with Valentina, who candidly shares emotions ("You know when you're so angry you want to cry?"). The trio drives a tech-modified 1960s camper van, robs a national museum and mucks unicorn stables of rainbow poop, ensuring epic entertainment between expertly tackled harder topics: losing a loved one, bullying, erasure. This story of mystical mayhem comes alive with characters and settings inspired by Córdova's Ecuadorian background. It is an exuberant and warm celebration of hope, selfhood and family unity. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

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