I received a free copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A young man with dreams of using his passion for piñata pulling finds himself immersed into an underground sport with a lucrative income and a dark secret in author Rey Barrera’s “El Piñatero – The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña”.
Simon-Alejandro dreamed big about small things. Since his twelfth birthday, he has wanted nothing more than to become a professional piñata puller.
Now he’s eighteen and is realizing that no one wants to pay for his piñata-pulling services. But when he is approached by a mysterious stranger, Simon is invited to join an underground piñata-fighting league that meets in secret while the rest of the city sleeps. Before he can hope to become the league’s champion, Simon must learn how to balance his new secret life with his small family.
I absolutely loved this book. As someone who comes from a Hispanic background myself, I loved the amount of culture and passion that the author infused into the narrative. The story had a vast amount of powerful imagery and unique settings that allowed the reader to feel immersed in the novel as if they were transported to those underground events and witnessed this exciting fictional sport for themselves. The world-building and mythos behind the fictional world of piñata pulling as a sport and the emphasis on the culture that it brought spoke to the deeper themes of family, identity, and hope that the author touched upon.
For me, the heart of this novel rested in both the character development and the balanced of whimsy and heart that the author found in the story itself. The relationships that the book explores with the protagonist Simon, from his mother and his sister to his Uncle Beto and his new group of friends, all felt very authentic to both the experiences of a young teen and a young man growing up in a Hispanic household. Even the rivalry that evolves between himself and The Dark Panda is great to see, as the conflict that comes from it and the emotional evolution that occurs help emphasize the whimsy of the sport and yet the heart of the players themselves.
Captivating, highly imaginative, and thoroughly entertaining, author Rey Barrera’s “El Piñatero – The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña” is a must-read children’s book of folk tales meets Hispanic American fiction and even some elements of YA storytelling. The twists and turns in the narrative, the way the author brings the reader into such a strong and beloved culture, and the wealth of powerful themes and emotional life lessons the protagonist learns along the way, all culminate into a thoroughly enjoyable novel that readers won’t want to miss out on. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Rey grew up in the South Texas town of Corpus Christi. His love of writing came from reading books well into the night and eventually dreaming of coming up with his own worlds and characters.
While in high school, Rey read a quote from Mark Twain, in which he referred to Tom and Huck as “his boys”. The notion that Twain had brought these characters to life, to the point of referring to them as his children, was a concept that Rey had never considered. And that notion brought so much meaning to everything he wrote – even short, seeminlgy insignificant, stories that no one would ever read. With El Piñatero, Rey hopes to blend the fictional world of piñata fighting with some real family experiences.
Rey makes his home in Texas, with his wife, Asored, his son, Simon and their cat, Albus Neko Potimus Prime of the Fifth Age of the Dragon Crown (or Neko for short).