Now that the public nominations are closed, I can now buckle to reading. (If you are an author or publisher with books that were missed, you still have time to submit them for consideration!) This intensive Cybils reading is one of my favorite times of year – the hardest part is finding time to review all the great books!
by Victor Piñeiro
Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2021
Read from library copy. Ebook and audiobook available on Libby.
Seventh grader Javi Santiago and his little sister Brady are used to being dragged to antique stores by their father, and so aren’t surprised when he chooses a new table for the family there. This table has a secret compartment underneath and beautiful carvings around the edges that lead Javi and Brady to call it Andy.
Their school has a long tradition of annual “three people you’d invite to dinner” assignments, complete with table settings and menus – budding chef Javi loves this part the best. In an effort to improve his grades, he asks his best friend Wiki (pictured as Black on the cover, and described as of Haitian ancestry) to help with the guest list, including not just the inventor of his favorite food, the sandwich, but also somebody with something teacherish in their name. Wiki picks Edward Teach without telling Javi who he is.
But it turns out that their table has the power to summon people from time and fiction. And when notorious pirate Blackbeard shows up for dinner and doesn’t want to leave, it’s going to take Wiki’s brains, Brady’s strength, and whatever Javi can come up with to send him back to his own time.
I’ll note that while Javi is a good hapless protagonist, slowly awakening to his powers, his sister Brady was much more of the ultra-prepared Wyld Style type, not only understanding the table better than anyone else, but also choosing great guests for her own dinner party, including Cleopatra and Rosa Parks.
This is a roller coaster of an adventure, filled with narrow escapes, slapstick humor, references to characters from history and literature that kids may or may not get without referencing the guide in the back, and Javi’s excellent Puerto Rican cooking. It fell a little harder on the crazy-fast plot side than I personally prefer, but I’d happily give this to a kid looking for a funny or adventurous story. Their school complex includes a castle staffed by many, many interesting characters – book two, Monster Problems, is due out in July 2022.